July 1, 2013
SAGE Publications recently posted a press release about many people’s favorite pet, the cat. The press release is about how the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) gathered a group of international feline experts co-chaired by Dr. Sarah Ellis from the University of Lincoln, U.K. and Dr. Ilona Rodan, Director of Cat Care Clinic, Wisconsin, U.S.A., to put together guidelines for feline environment health.
The whole purpose of the guidelines was to help domestic cat owners, vets, and scientists understand how to provide cats with the best environment possible. As SAGE Publications stated, “A cat’s level of comfort within its environment is intrinsically linked to its physical health, emotional well-being and behavior. Thus, meeting the environmental needs of the cat is an absolutely essential part of our care-taking role of this companion animal.” Cats have some specie’s specific environmental needs in order to be happy and healthy, and the guidelines provided by the ISFM and the AAFP discuss those needs directly.
As the actual report explains, “Addressing environmental needs is essential (not optional) for optimum wellbeing of the cat. Environmental needs include those relating not only to the cat’s physical surroundings (indoors or outdoors; in the home environment or at the veterinary practice) but also those affecting social interaction, including responses to human contact.”
The report identifies the five pillars of a healthy feline environment:
Pillar 1: Provide a safe place.
Pillar 2: Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources: food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and resting or sleeping areas.
Pillar 3: Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior.
Pillar 4: Provide positive, consistent and predictable human–cat social interaction.
Pillar 5: Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell.
In addition, the guide provides some specific information about cat behavior that helps to support the five pillars. For instance, cats are solitary hunters, so they need familiar territory. Because of this, they have a heightened flight or fight sense, which often leads to cat avoidance or hiding if they do not have the safety of the five pillars listed above. Moreover, “Cats’ keen senses allow them to be successful hunters, to readily identify familiar animals and territory, and to protect themselves from unfamiliar threats. For example, cats can hear the ultrasonic chatter of rodents to help locate their prey and this aural acuity helps to identify sounds of potential danger.”
Each of the five pillars address both a cat’s solitary needs and its keen senses, as well as a cat’s other specie’s specific needs. The guidelines then go into great detail about why each pillar is necessary. It even ends with tips for implementing the guidelines including:
- Commit your practice to meeting the feline patient’s environmental needs.
- Provide immediate environmental support in the practice.
- Include environmental assessment as part of preventive health care and wellness exams.
- Apply the Guidelines at home.
The guidelines are incredibly helpful for anyone who loves cats. Whether a veterinarian, feline scientist, or just a cat lover, the information in these guidelines are incredibly helpful. It is an easy document to read for anyone interested.
I am an animal lover, and domestic cats are one of my favorite species. It makes me happy that these guidelines exist for cat lovers and owners, new and old alike.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com