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Leading Off: CATalyst: Fighting indifference about feline health
In front of a hundred-plus leaders of our profession, he told us in his own words, without preparation or prompting, exactly what the statistics are showing us--veterinary healthcare for cats is at a crisis stage!
I recently attended a management congress where more than 100 veterinarians gathered to learn ways to build better practices. Our motivational speaker had done his homework in order to connect with his audience. Just as if he were in a pulpit, he spoke fervently about his wonderful relationship with his veterinarian. His old dog had recently passed away after a series of medical problems that required intensive management and frequent veterinary visits for monitoring and intervention. He lauded his veterinarian for all the attention and care that was given on each visit.
Dr. Jane E. Brunt
The speaker went on to describe how much he loved his new puppy. Each time he comes in the door when returning from a business trip, she's there to greet him. The point of his presentation was that indifference can make people—your business, your team, or even your family—leave. He loved his dogs because they made him feel so special.
Then came the bomb: "Oh, and we have a couple of cats, too, but they don't go to the veterinarian..." Wow. In front of a hundred-plus leaders of our profession, he told us in his own words, without preparation or prompting, exactly what the statistics are showing us—veterinary healthcare for cats is at a crisis stage!
THE HARD NUMBERS
The AVMA's 2007 edition of the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook released in December confirms rumors we've been hearing in the profession—veterinary visits for cats are down. In fact, the sourcebook, which is based on information from nearly 50,000 pet-owning households in 2006, reported that owned cats outnumber owned dogs 81.7 million to 72 million, yet the percentage of cat-owning households that received no veterinary care in 2006 was 36.3%, compared with 17.3% of dog-owning households. This means that cats are twice as likely not to see a veterinarian as dogs. Additionally, veterinary visits for cats have declined almost 11% since 2001.
A POWERFUL UNION
Enter the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and Pfizer Animal Health, teaming up to host the CATalyst Summit, which included more than 30 leading organizations and companies, including top-level representatives from the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and shelter and animal welfare organizations as well as academicians, the media, and an initial handful of other commercial partners. It was all about the cat!
These key leaders gathered to discuss how to improve healthcare for cats, increase responsible pet ownership, enhance the stature of cats, and enrich lives. The energy at the summit was electrifying. The diverse individuals all agreed that the alarming statistics about cats need to be addressed and, as a result, came readily to consensus.
The group collectively developed an action plan that includes five elements:
- Continue to collaborate across all channels
- Develop feline life-stage guidelines for veterinary professionals and consumers
- Create cat-friendly veterinary practices
- Brand the cat by promoting a positive image of cats in people's minds
- Produce a consumer awareness campaign
With CATalyst, AAFP has achieved another first. With its vaccination guidelines, AAFP was first to assemble medically sound protocols to aid practitioners in vaccinating appropriately. Now CATalyst is the first industry-wide initiative that embraces all stakeholders in the health and welfare of cats. We're passionate—not indifferent—and we hope to motivate all members of industry—and you—to join forces and support this CATalyst for change!
JOIN THE FIGHT
Visit www.catalystsummit.org to see all the participants of the CATalyst Summit and to register to receive future communications. For more information on the efforts made by AAFP on behalf of veterinarians who provide care for cats and their owners, visit our new Web site www.catvets.com.
Dr. Jane E. Brunt, chair of the CATalyst Summit and past president of the AAFP, is the founder of the Cat Hospital at Towson in Baltimore, Md., and owner of the Cat Hospital Eastern Shore in Cordova, Md.