Earlier this week, I had a chance to attend the Better with Pets Summit in New York City. The summit was sponsored by Purina*, and while my nutritional philosophy differs greatly from that of Purina when it comes to species-appropriate nutrition for cats, I appreciate the work the company is doing to foster the human-animal bond. This year’s summit focused on how technology and scientific advances are leading to a brighter future with our pets. The daylong event featured 15 expert presentations on why our lives are better with pets – not that any of us at the summit needed experts to convince us of that!
Some of the presentations were thought-provoking, others were mindblowing, and one or two touched my heart. I’ll be writing in more detail about some of the topics, but I’d like to give you a few highlights today.
The Kindest Caregivers: Why Pets Should be on Staff at Hospitals
Ed Creagan, a Mayo oncologist and author of How Not to Be My Patient: A Physician’s Guide for Staying Healthy and Surviving Any Diagnosis, spoke about the need for pets to be on hospital staffs. Dr. Creagan has seen the incredible impact pets can have on patients’ well being first-hand, especially in his terminal patients. “Physicians need to listen and understand the role of pets in a patient’s life,” emphasized Creagan.
How a 14-Year-Old Inventor Treats Pet Anxiety
Brooke Martin, a 14-year-old inventor who appeared more poised at her age than most adults, created the iCPooch, an interactive product that allows dog owners to communicate with their dogs and even dispense treats from afar. The product has proven extremely helpful for dogs with separation anxiety. One application that I found particularly remarkable was for servicemen and women who are separated from their pets during deployment. “Being separated from your animals is so heartbreaking,” said Brooke.
What Happens When Cat Videos Meet the Art World?
Will Braden, the creator of the Henri Le Chat Noir videos and Scott Stulen (both in the photo above with me), co-creator of the Walker Center’s CatVidFest, talked about what happens when cat videos become art. Baden, who was able to turn his passion for cats into work that allows him to make a good living (his business card reads “I make cat videos”) said that since unlike dogs, cats and their guardians stay at home, the internet has become the playground for cats. “There are no cat parks. You don’t take a cat out on a leash.” Stulen explains the success of CatVidFest due to the feeling of community it generates among cat lovers. “Sometimes, we don’t even realize how disconnected we are from each other until we start doing something together in real life,” said Stulen, “like watching cat videos together.”
Reinventing Shelters for Humans and Pets
The presentation that moved me the most was given by Rita Garza, Senior Vice President of Urban Resource Institute in New York. URI created a program which allows survivors of domestic abuse to live alongside their pets in shelters. ” Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy showed us that people will not leave their pets behind to seek shelter,” said Garza.” The same is true when it comes to domestic abuse. As many as 48% of women stay in abusive situations out of concern for their pets’ safety. Garza introduced Pamela, a domestic violence survivor, who “tolerated a lot of insanity” so she and her three cats, Ricky, Lucy, and Gizmo, would have a home. Pamela moved into a pet-friendly URI apartment in September of last year, and attended the various counseling and internship programs for a new beginning.
Other presentations covered cutting edge medicine, advances in nutrition and behavior, and more.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and even though I didn’t need convincing that life is, indeed, better with pets, I came away feeling very blessed that I get to spend my life in this amazing pet world, learning and writing about what it takes to keep pets, especially cats, and their humans happy and healthy.
Conscious Cat Sunday will return next week.
*I did not receive any compensation from Purina to attend the summit, or to write this post. I was invited by Purina to attend the summit, but paid for my own travel expenses.