Veterinarians to Develop Feline Health Care Standards

Participants at the Catalyst Summit mapped a plan to improve cats' lives.

Posted: February 9 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Veterinarians to Develop Feline Health Care Standards
The CATalyst Summit in Palm Springs, Calif., prompted veterinarians to develop health care guidelines for cats.
The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners have agreed to jointly develop life stage-based health care guidelines for cats for veterinarians by January 2009, pending the approvals of their respective boards.

The decision to jointly develop the guidelines was made at and prompted by the CATalyst Summit, a gathering of more than 40 veterinarians and representatives from animal health companies and welfare organizations designed to improve the lives of cats.

The summit, jointly sponsored by AAFP and Pfizer Animal Health, hoped to address the declining number of veterinary visits for cats — despite an increase in the overall population of cats. The 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook had indicated that nearly 40 percent of cat-owning households received no veterinary care in 2006, more than twice the rate of dog-owning households, and cats average less than one visit to the veterinarian per year.

AAHA president-elect Anna Worth, VMD, and AAFP president Valerie Creighton, DVM, announced the tentative agreement during the meeting after the group determined a significant need for such guidelines, which will be modeled after similar human health guidelines that recommend certain screening procedures at certain ages.

The feline guidelines also will address certain behavior issues, notably inappropriate elimination, that lead to a significant number of cat relinquishments and euthanasia.

Catalyst participants also came to a general consensus on additional steps to take for cats, including working toward educating veterinarians on creating cat-friendly practices and a potential consumer awareness campaign championing cats.

These elements of the program address concerns that cat owners may avoid bringing in their cats to veterinarians due to logistical difficulties (including the often challenging aspect of simply transporting cats) and anxiety at the practice. Efforts to elevate the status of cats in the eyes of the general public, and possibly veterinary professionals, stem from a concern that cats are treated as second-class citizens and of less value compared to dogs.

Other components of the program will include research (for example, into why cat owners are not bringing their cats into veterinarians), and continued collaboration efforts on behalf of cats.

Specifically, the summit organizers based the meeting on four pillars: improving health care for cats, increasing responsible pet ownership, enhancing the status of cats, and enriching their lives.

Among other organizations and companies represented at the summit: the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, CAT FANCY magazine (a sister publication to, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Idexx, the Cat Fanciers Association, Catnip (Tufts University newsletter), Petco Animal Supplies, VCA Animal Hospitals, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, the Morris Animal Foundation, the Companion Animal Parasite Council, American Humane, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Pets Best Insurance, and the Cornell Feline Health Center.

The memory of the late Jim Richards, DVM, who had been director of the Cornell unit, was evoked frequently as a catalyst for the summit.

To read CAT FANCY magazine and CatChannel Editor Susan Logan’s blog about the CATalyst Summit, click here.

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Reader Comments

J    Charlotte, NC

2/10/2008 10:03:59 PM

Glad to see that more is being done for the health of cats!

Angela    Hamburg, NY

2/10/2008 7:57:53 AM

This is wonderful and should have been done sooner.

Kathy    Morehead City, NC

2/10/2008 5:40:47 AM

This is terrific!

Ruthann    Crossville, TN

2/10/2008 4:54:44 AM

This is a wonderful article. I especially like the idea of trying to make veterinarians' offices more cat friendly. Mine get traumatized every time they have to go. But I do make sure they go regularly.

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