Could you briefly introduce iCatCare?
We are a not-for-profit organisation and have been working to improve the health and welfare of all cats (owned and unowned) worldwide since 1958. We provide information and education for individuals involved with cats, from owners to breeders, to cattery owners and those involved with unowned populations and rehoming. The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) is the veterinary division of iCatCare. It provides resources and information to enhance and improve the veterinary care of cats.
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery is the official journal of ISFM and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). ISFM also holds a European and Asia-Pacific congress each year to provide opportunities for veterinarians to hear cutting-edge information from leading KOLs and monthly webinars, free to members. To help increase understanding of cats, ISFM runs distance education courses covering feline nursing, behavior and how to be cat-friendly.
What are the key challenges veterinarians face in treating felines?
Around the world veterinary training has many priorities and in some areas, feline medicine has not played a large part in undergraduate training. But, as cats become more popular pets, the demand for quality cat treatment grows. Cats can be tricky to handle and differences between canine and feline species need to be taken into account in terms of behavior, medicine, surgery and the environment in which we treat them. We provide information to help veterinarians enhance feline treatment and care.
Taking a cat to a veterinary clinic can be stressful for both the owner and the cat. This presents a key challenge. Even a veterinarian with the best feline knowledge and a Cat Friendly Clinic can only treat those cats that reach them and it is well-known that cats receive less veterinary attention that dogs. Once they have been to the veterinarian for initial vaccination and neutering, they may not be seen again until they have developed an advanced or serious disease. Cats are excellent at hiding pain and discomfort and this is a further challenge to the early identification of disease.
As we learn more about cats, it has become clear that aspects of their home environment may impact their health and welfare. As more people become cat owners, veterinarians need to understand cat behavior and the effects of environment and management to help owners understand how to maintain the health of their cat.
Could you explain the type of initiatives that you run to help veterinarians?
We have two programs to support veterinarians. The Cat Friendly Clinic
(CFC) accreditation programme has been running since 2012 and covers the world apart from the Americas (where the program is run as Cat Friendly Practice by the AAFP, under license from ISFM). The program was developed to make veterinary clinics more welcoming to cats and their owners, to reduce the stress of veterinary visits for cats and to make treating and handling cats easier for veterinary staff. Accredited clinics are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold award. The Cat Friendly Clinic programme is supported by our commercial partners BI, Ceva, Elanco, IDEXX, Royal Canin and Zoetis.
Cat Care for Life
was launched in 2018 and aims to support cat owners and the veterinary healthcare team to work together proactively to manage the health and welfare of cats. Providing a life-long preventative healthcare plan that both the veterinary team and the owner understand and commit to is the best way of protecting the health of the cat and preserving the human-animal bond. This programme represents a set of recommendations established by international experts and organizations. The program includes educational and motivational materials for owners, as well as resources for the veterinary healthcare team. Itis sponsored by BI, IDEXX and Royal Canin.
Why did you choose to become an affiliate member of the WSAVA?
We have worked with WSAVA at many conferences, presenting feline issues during pre-congress days and appreciate the opportunity to access audiences we may not be able to reach ourselves. iCatCare values collaboration and needs the help of others to help spread the message about the quality and compassionate care of cats. We admire the education outreach supported by WSAVA and the Guidelines it produces, all helping to unify standards of care.
Do you have a message for WSAVA members?
Studies show that cat owners care for their animals just as much as dog owners and are equally willing to seek veterinary healthcare. However, obstacles need to be overcome in order for cat owners to feel comfortable visiting the veterinary clinic to gain quality treatment. We are here to help you to develop your knowledge and understanding of your feline patients.