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New cat-focused health center aims to help fill a veterinary need
The program consolidates all the feline expertise at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine under a single umbrella.
A new Feline Health Center has been created by the North Carolina (NC) State College of Veterinary Medicine, with the goal of filling a national need for more cat-focused care. The center consolidates all of the college’s feline expertise under a single umbrella.
“With our Feline Health Center, we will put an intentional emphasis on improving cat health in multiple ways, including through research, enhanced educational opportunities for veterinarians and owners, innovative care for feline patients and community outreach,” said Kate Meurs, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology), dean of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine, in an organizational release. “Cats are a unique species, and cat lovers expect the veterinary profession to be able to address their specific health and behaviors.”
Margaret Gruen, DVM, associate professor of behavioral medicine; and Alex Lynch, BVSc(Hons) DACVECC MRCVS, associate professor of internal medicine and emergency critical care, are the center’s co-directors. “We and our colleagues are excited by the idea of bringing all of the professionals doing incredible work in feline issues together in a structured way,” Gruen said, in the release. “Seeing all the interest and excitement can really move something forward when you reach this critical mass of people all interested in the same thing.”
Lynch says the center will be a place where people can easily access all the innovative research, clinical care, and educational opportunities available for feline care. “We’re a big team of people where, we don’t necessarily all check every box individually, but across the board, we do,” Lynch said, in the release. “There are excellent researchers, excellent clinicians, outstanding educators, and together we do offer a lot. This center will be a good opportunity to share that.”
The center has 4 areas focusing on feline health: clinical service, research, community outreach, and education. Another focus will be making the NC State Veterinary Hospital, where some donors already have helped create cat-specific exam rooms, even more feline-friendly.
Recently, there’s been a growing awareness that cat needs are very different from dog needs, Gruen noted, and many small animal veterinary hospitals are set up in ways that can be more difficult for cats. “We really are thinking critically about what cats need for the entire experience,” Gruen said, in the release. “What are cat needs for entering into the clinic and the hospital? What are cat needs for hospitalization and exam rooms? Every single piece, we’re really trying to take the cat-eye view of it. All of those pieces are important, and how we handle cats is how we show clients we are dedicated to excellent feline care.”
The center also will give cat lovers an opportunity to make a monetary donation to specific research for improving feline health, according to Meurs. For example, the center already has funded 2 new studies on feline cancer.
As for the educational mission, Meurs envisions the center providing opportunities such as seminars in feline health both to veterinarians and to pet owners who can learn to recognize feline illness in their pets and better understand feline behavior. Furthering that mission, the center’s first Feline Symposium is already set for April 29-30, 2023, with NC State feline experts providing tracks for veterinarians on both days as well as information on nutrition, common toxicities, and behavioral problems, among other topics, for cat owners on Sunday.
“The gist is, it has 2 streams,” Lynch said, in the release “One is veterinarian to veterinarian, meant to be an opportunity to share more cutting edge, newer stuff that’s coming out, but then the other stream is really for owners. They are our big priority. The goal is to address topics on the questions they have, real-life questions we get.”
On the outreach front, Meurs also hopes to expand the mission of the NC State Mobile Veterinary Hospital to include more pet help for underserved cat owners. It currently focuses primarily on spay and neutering opportunities at shelters.
Internally, Gruen and Lynch say, the center also will host informal events where all of the feline experts can meet to share ideas, research and projects. “I have a greater awareness now just from the first meeting of what other people are doing, and that was kind of inspiring in itself, just to see how your little pocket of the vet school, where you’re doing something, fits in,” Lynch said,in the release. “This health center is going to be great to show us internally what’s going on, but I think more importantly to have an organized way to share the work that's happening.”
Gruen says the center also will create more opportunities for veterinary students to learn even more about caring for cats. “We want them to leave NC State knowing what cats’ needs are in the hospital and feeling confident in their cat handling,” Gruen said, in the release. “That’s an important thing as well. And that’s difficult to do because you’re balancing the cats’ needs. Cats can only be handled by so many people at once. Figuring out how to make that balance is difficult, but the center will help us.”
New initiative: NC State filling demand for a feline health center. News release. North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine. April 4, 2023. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2023/04/04/2641146/0/en/New-Initiative-NC-State-Filling-Demand-for-a-Feline-Health-Center.html