Last week, I went to New York City for an event called BlogPurr. Merck brought together veterinarians, a cat behavior expert, and a small panel of cat writers to discuss issues specific to feline wellness and advocacy.
You’ll be reading more about topics the sessions touched on in the future, but today I wanted to share a little overview of the event itself.
The morning’s lineup of speakers began with author Amy Shojai, who writes about feline behavior. She turned the tables a little bit and instead of just discussing feline behavior, she led a discussion of human behavior, especially how we all interact online.
We discussed how there are so many different personality types among cats, and among humans, too, and how that is reflected in the way we interact online. It was great to be reminded that there are people reading who are too intimidated to comment and join the conversation, and that we need to make sure everyone has a voice in the discussion so that everybody is heard.
The second speaker was Dr. Margie Scherk, who founded the first ever feline-only veterinary practice and is now an international speaker and writer on veterinary topics. I was blown away by her amazing of energy and passion about cats and their care!
She opened by talking about how there are so millions more cats than dogs here in the US. I had no idea that there are nearly twice the number of cats as there are dogs in Canada. Our friends north of the border love cats more than we do! Yet with so many more cats than dogs living in our homes, cats get to the vet much less frequently, and the number is decreasing.
She shared some really interesting numbers about some of the excuses people give for why their cats don’t make it in to see the vet, including 60% saying their cat “hates” the vet visit, and 39% only willing to visit if their cat is sick. Cats are great at hiding illnesses, and humans aren’t very good at seeing the subtle signs of a sick cat. That makes preventative care even more important so that the cat doesn’t get sick in the first place or the illness is caught early during a routine visit.
One of my favorite things about the sessions at BlogPurr is that they didn’t talk down to us as non-veterinarians about veterinary topics. Hearing a vet say to a non-veterinary audience that veterinarians and their team members are often less comfortable working with cats than dogs was really refreshing, since it took me years of trying to convince myself I was imagining exactly that.
Veterinarians are now learning how to make their practices more cat friendly, including less-threatening exam rooms and helping cats be less fearful when they are at the vet. Since so much of what is perceived as “bad” behavior at the vet comes from a cat being afraid, this can make a big difference in your cat’s experience at the vet… which means it is a better experience for you, too.
During Dr. Scherk’s talk, she spotted a cat watching her from a window across the street. I hope that kitty learned something from her talk about why going to the vet was important!
A third talk was by Dr. Cathy Lund, who has an all-feline practice, City Kitty, in Providence, Rhode Island. I had no idea how much people can be in denial about fleas and ticks. Sure, fleas are embarrassing, but Dr. Lund has had clients tell her that their cat can’t have fleas because they live in a nice neighborhood. Some people really don’t understand that it can happen to anyone.
Dr. Lund also explained what a huge fear of tick-borne illness there is in her part of the country. It’s bad enough that people surrender their cats to shelters out of fear of catching diseases from ticks! Obviously, there has to be some solution that helps keep these cats in their homes by calming the fears of the humans they live with.
She told us about how successful the field study was at her clinic for Merck’s new Bravecto for cats and shared quotes from grateful people whose cats were part of the trial and used it to get their flea infestations under control at least. Never having heard a firsthand explanation of participating in a field study, that was really fascinating, and I can only imagine how good it must have felt to help the itchy cats and their frustrated families.
This was followed by a talk from Dr. Robert Armstrong, a veterinarian with Merck, who shared more information about the studies leading up to the new flea and tick prevention product. I laughed when one of the slides said, “People do not want to see disgusting photos.” But it’s true! How many gross photos or diagrams are used at a vet’s office to try to explain things to you and end up squicking you out instead?
I thought it was interesting when he talked about formulating a parasite preventative that lasts three months, so it lasts through the time that flea eggs in the household environment hatch and could re-colonize your cat. My first thought was of how long it took us to get fleas under control after my mother brought her cats and dog to live with my sister. A topical treatment you don’t have to remember to apply every month like Bravecto would have been a great solution for those itchy cats.
After the talk, we broke for lunch, and then it was time to go visit the cats.
No, not the New York Public Library lions! I took that photo the previous day.
The whole group went to a cat cafe. I’ll have more about that on Wednesday, so come back to see part 2 about our visit to Koneko.
Disclosure: My travel costs to this event were paid by Merck Animal Health.