New Cat Health Network Partnership Launched to Improve Feline Health and Welfare

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Cats need a helping hand, and a newly formed partnership between some of the most influential feline organizations in the country has taken a significant step to help provide that support.

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, cats are the most popular pet in the U.S. The group’s recent figures indicate current pet ownership to be 78 million cats, compared to 65 million dogs. In spite of this, cats fall significantly behind dogs when it comes to veterinarian visits, according to recent findings by Bayer HealthCare, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, in the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. This comprehensive investigation explored reasons for the decline in companion animal veterinary visits over the past several years.

“Cats are America’s most popular pet, yet they receive far less veterinary care than their canine counterparts,” said Dr. Garry Adams, American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) Animal Health Studies Chair and former member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Research. “In addition to receiving less veterinary care, there is also less research conducted on cat health. As a result, new diagnostic and treatment options are lagging behind those for dogs.”

That’s why the Cat Health Network has been created. Comprised of the AVMF, the Morris Animal Foundation, the Winn Feline Foundation, and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the Cat Health Network is a first step in the commitment to improve feline health and welfare.

The Cat Health Network is the first initiative launched under the broader Animal Health Network, which was founded to bring together like-minded groups to facilitate greater research in a collaborative effort. “The formulation of the Cat Health Network is a step in the right direction,” says Dr. Letrisa Miller, Chair of the AAFP Research Committee. “The decline in feline veterinary visits is alarming and now — more than ever before — it’s becoming critical for us to identify new ways to improve feline health and welfare.”

The organizations that comprise the new Cat Health Network initiative all have their own individual mission and focus but they share a common commitment to providing quality animal care:

  • The Winn Feline Foundation was founded in 1968 by the Cat Fanciers’ Association. It is the only international charity solely devoted to

    Dr. Vicki Thayer, Winn Feline Foundation President (L) and Dr. Jody Gookin (R) 2011 winner of the Winn Feline /AVMF Excellence in Feline Research Award for her work in feline gastrointestinal disease, especially in kittens and infectious causes of diarrhea.

    funding feline health studies with the focus on having “Every cat, every day” live longer, healthier lives.

  • The Morris Animal Foundation helps animals enjoy longer, healthier lives by advancing health and welfare research that protects, treats and cures companion animals, horses and wildlife worldwide.
  • The American Association of Feline Practitioners improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education, and scientific investigation.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Foundation is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association. They are dedicated to embracing and advancing the well-being and medical care of animals. The charitable contributions the foundation receives enable veterinarians to help animals through humane outreach-animal welfare, education and public awareness, research support, student enhancement and support of the AVMA and its Initiatives.

Funding from the Cat Health Network will help target feline health studies, particularly in the areas of cancer, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, lower urinary tract disease and pain management. “This precedent-setting collaboration is dedicated to making a significant difference in the health and welfare of domestic cats,” adds Dr. Adams. “The Cat Health Network believes that feline-exclusive research will bring about much-needed improvements in the treatment of all cats.”

In the area of research, several project initiatives were recently approved by The Cat Health Network that will be conducted in laboratories both here in the U.S. and abroad. “The cat is the most underfunded animal in research in the U.S., and this unified approach toward improving the lives of cats is one way we can take the lead and make a collective impact,” said Dr. Wayne Jensen, Chief Scientific Officer of the Morris Animal Foundation.

One type of research being pursued by the Cat Health Network is in the area of feline genetics. “Our ability to explore genomics in improving cat health is a revolutionary step that we believe will reveal new insights about fighting disease and improving overall feline health,” says Dr. Wayne Jenkins. Adds Winn Feline President, Dr. Vicki Thayer, “Winn’s history of supporting genetic research, such as polycystic kidney disease in Persians,

makes this collaborative effort a natural fit.”

Dr. Michael Cathey, AVMF Executive Director, emphasizes that the Cat Health Network’s initial research into feline health and welfare is “just the
beginning.” He concludes, “It is our hope that from the Cat Health Network will spring future projects that will broaden our scope for the benefit of all animal species.”

For more information:

Vicki L. Thayer, D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P. (feline)
Winn Feline Foundation
Michael W. Cathey, Executive Director
American Veterinary Medical Foundation
Wayne A. Jensen, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.B.A.
Morris Animal Foundation
Heather O’Steen, Assistant Executive Director
American Association of Feline Practitioners
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