The CATalyst Summit last week was the single most important life-enhancing event for cats and their people since the invention of Kitty Litter. Along with nearly fifty animal health and welfare movers-and-shakers, I was invited to participate in a two-day think-tank in Palm Springs, California. It was sponsored by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and funded by Pfizer Animal Health, to focus on elevating the status and health of the cat. This initiative was the brainchild of Dr. James R. Richards--that’s him with Dr. Mew, his office cat. Jim went too early to the “rainbow bridge” this past spring in a tragic accident that left his longtime dream incomplete. He was the director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, and a mentor to many (including myself). And he lamented the fact that kitties just don’t get the same respect as d*ggy counterparts. I mean, d*gs are great, I love my d*g. But cats are something unique and very special. So, his friends and colleagues gathered to carry on in his paw-steps and make Jim’s dream a reality. These caring, savvy, and influential cat-centric experts represented the most diverse group I’ve ever seen. Under other circumstances it may have turned into a catfight! But everyone put aside differences, with the rallying cry: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CAT! We were charged to come up with a plan that addressed four "Pillars for Action" >Improve Health Care for our Feline Companions >Increase Responsible Pet Ownership >Enhance the Stature of Cats >Enrich Lives (human and cat) We came up with an ACTION PLAN: 1. BRANDING THE CAT CATalyst wants to better promote the idea that CATS are COOL. (Even though the folks reading this blog already know that…not everyone is so enlightened). 2. GUIDELINES Humans have lifestage health guidelines--we know women should get a mammogram at a certain age, and men should check for specific things, so why not cats? That will help veterinarians know when what things need to be done for the best possible care of kitties. So pending their boards’ approval, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) will cooperatively develop these guidelines for veterinarians. Once the guidelines have been completed, Winn Feline Foundation, and pet journalists like myself and my colleague Steve Dale, with funding from Hills will create and make available a CONSUMER FRIENDLY VERSION of these AAFP-AAHA feline lifestage guidelines. How cool is that?! Maybe cats don’t need to see the vet every year, or perhaps they should get tests every six months after a certain age--we’ll find out. 3. CAT FRIENDLY PRACTICE Not all veterinary practices are as "cat-friendly" as they could be. Heck, cats hate going into a waiting room filled with dogs, and they get their tails in a twist being stuffed into a carrier. So CATalyst will find ways to encourage veterinarians to make their hospitals more attractive and user-friendly to cats--and to their people. 4. CONSUMER AWARENESS CAMPAIGN CATalyst recognizes we love our cats, and many of us already have good education and great motivation to do what’s right. But other folks need extra help to enhance both. So there will be lots of great educational materials that come out of this, all for the benefit of our beloved kitties. It’s an opportunity for all the cat-savvy educational outlets to pounce on board in this massive, good-for-felines effort. I believe in this initiative so much, feel it’s so important, that I’m “talking it up” in as many places as possible, including my Pet Peeves radio show at www.petliferadio.com. Current shows also cover a talk with David Frei about Westminster (d*gs are people, too!), and an interview with the president of the American Veterinary Dental Society. But next week, Pet Peeves addresses the “Cost of Love” and veterinary care costs, including how the CATalyst effort can help. CATalyst plans won’t happen overnight, but shining a spotlight on cats’ needs is long overdue. Don’t our cats deserve the special attention? I am honored and thrilled to have been a part of this historic and never-before collaboration of industry, veterinary professionals, animal welfare, cat fancy and media. Stay tuned--you’ll be hearing more because-- IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CAT!
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