Earlier this week, I had a chance to attend the Better with Pets Summit in Brooklyn, NY. 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 admire the work the company is doing to foster the human-animal bond. This year’s summit focused on emotional wellness for pets and humans. The daylong event featured panel discussions with experts ranging from veterinary behaviorists to architects to anthrozoologists, and an interactive exhibit area that explored emotional wellness for cats and dogs in the areas of environment, cognition, behavior and nutrition.
I’ll be writing in more detail about what I learned, but wanted to share some highlights with you today.
Our changing relationship with cats
The first panel of the day explored our evolving relationship with cats, with a focus on how millenials may be changing this relationship. The panel highlighted some interesting differences in how millenials relate to cats as opposed to baby boomers (and I confess that as a member of the baby boomer generation, I cringed a little every time the panel referred to us as “older people.”) One aspect of the research they presented that I found particularly fascinating as well as gratifying was that older cat guardians are less anxious about their relationship with their cats. They are more trusting than younger generations that their cats really do love them. Older cat guardians tend to be more patient with cats and let the cats come to them whereas younger cat guardians expect the cat to come to them. Not surprisingly, research shows that interaction between cats and humans last longer and is better when the human lets the cat initiate interaction.
Stress, Our Pets and Us
My favorite panel was a panel headlined Stress, Our Pets and Us. Moderated by Dr. Marty Becker, it featured Ragen McGowen, a Purina Behaviorist, Heather Lewis from Animal Arts Architects, a firm that focuses on building veterinary hospitals that reduce stress for pets and their guardians, and veterinary rock star Dr. Tony Buffington, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. I’ll be writing more about this particular panel discussion soon.
Meeting a veterinary hero
Meeting Dr. Buffington and getting a chance to chat with him was one of the highlights of the summit for me – I’ve admired his work with cats for decades. Dr. Buffington is passionate about improving cats’ lives, and I was delighted to see that his business card reads “Effective Environmental Enrichment Evangelist!”
Pets change lives
A third panel discussed raising pets and kids. The event also featured keynotes by Purina Senior Research Nutritionist Arleigh Reynolds, who created the Frank Attla Youth Program, which has helped alleviate social problems by pairing at risk youth in rural Alaska with working dogs, and journalist and reality show personality Carole Radziwill, who shared how her dog Baby transformed her life.
Emotional wellness for pets via interactive exhibits
The summit featured a large exhibit area that explored various components of emotional wellness for pets. I was delighted to see a lot of focus on creating environments that allow cats to express their true nature. From absolutely amazing interactive exhibits to a large cat room that featured cats and kittens from a New Jersey rescue group, it was wonderful to see so much emphasis on environmental enrichment for cats.
This was my second Better With Pets Summit, and like last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Events like this one are important, because they spread the word about what cats (and dogs) need to a wider audience, and this can only help make cat’s lives better.
For more information about the Better With Pets Summit, please visit http://www.BetterWithPets.com. You can find more photos from the summit on my Facebook page.
*I was invited by Purina to attend the summit, and Purina paid for my travel expenses. I did not receive any compensation to write about the summit. The views and opinions expressed in this post are mine, and are not influenced by the compensation I received for my travel expenses. Regardless of payment received, you will only see topics on this site that I believe are of interest to my readers.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.
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