This post is sponsored by Nestle Purina® and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the BetterWithPets campaign but Bling, Bitches & Blood only shares information relevant to our readers. Purina is not responsible for the content of this article.
This past Tuesday, November 3rd, I was pleased to attend the 3rd Purina #BetterWithPets event held in Brooklyn, NY. I was able to attend the first one a couple of years ago, and had a conflict last year so was delighted to be invited again. This all day event offered several panels in the morning, followed by afternoon experiential hands-on exhibits (which I’ll blog more about later). Everything was designed with the intention of “Exploring the best ideas for bringing people and pets closer together.”
The whole day was a slam-dunk for cats and dogs, and the people who love them. Bravo to Purina for truly bringing together some for the brightest minds in pet science and culture–and allowing pet advocates, media, shelter professionals and more to mingle, ask questions, and share information to improve pet well being. The event was a who’s who of movers and shakers in the pet world, and I had fan-girl moments all day getting to meet (and reconnect) with my heroes.
Those who know me won’t be surprised that there were quite a few Kleenex moments throughout the day…I weep pretty easily especially when it comes to pet topics. The opening keynote by Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, and the ending short movie that also covered his subject, were wonderful tributes for and about the Frank Attla Youth Program that benefits at-risk students in rural Alaska–and how dogs brought a community back to life when everyone in the family learned they had a role to play in caring for the dogs.
In his talk, Dr. Reynolds said during his studies, he learned about tidal pools where a multitude of different creatures live alongside each other. “If you remove one, before long several others disappear, even though their relationship isn’t clear.” He says the same thing is true with dogs. “Our relationship goes far deeper than what we can define. Humans and dogs are physically and emotionally healthier when we share our lives together.” When you get the chance, take a look at this brief movie:
It was particularly refreshing to have CAT interests so well represented. The first panel was moderated by Hal Herzog, Ph.D. and titled “An Evolving Relationship with Cats?” Dr. Herzog was joined by behaviorist Dr. Sandra Lyn; Mikel Delgado, CCBC; and Christina Ha, the co-founder of Meow Parlour. A few nuggets that came out of this session:
- We’re shifting how we work and how we communicate, so makes sense that the relationship may change.
- Most of those visiting Meow Parlour are female millennials and found Meow Parlour through social media.
- In past dog people could hang out together at dog parks with other dog lovers. Now cats and cat lovers can do the same thing with social media and cat cafes.
- 31 percent of millennial’s households include cat.
- Millennials are willing to spend more on cats than in the past.
- Relationships work better when you let the cat initiate the interaction
- Dog videos make you cry. Cat videos make you laugh. Can we use that as a platform in how we educate?
The second panel, “Stress, Our Pets and Us,” moderated by Dr. Marty Becker, featured Dr. Ragen McGowan, Heather Lewis, an architect/designer of vet hospitals and animal care facilities, and Dr. Tony Buffington. More nuggets from this session:
- Cat and dogs see in different light spectrum, so offer enough space, a quiet place, and colors in their spectrum (blues/greens) that are soothing.
- Cats and dogs like pastel colors best
- Choice of lighting makes a difference in stress. Incandescent lighting and fluorescent are poor choices compared to the much better LED lights that are perceived more like natural sunlight.
- Having a cat at a higher level changes the cat’s attitude and reduce stress–be sure cats get higher cage levels in vet clinics/shelters (and make options available in your home!)
- Some stress is GOOD—such as puzzles or something to learn. Pets often CHOOSE to go with the more difficult challenge (a puzzle toy rather than full food bowl).
- New “fear free” cages have horizontal bars and a place to “hide” the pet’s face at bottom. Vertical bars obstruct vision for the cats and cause added stress and horizontal provide unobstructed views.
- Volunteers visiting pets in shelters for just 15 minutes lowers the dog’s stress significantly
The third panel, “Raising Pets and Kids” was moderated by Dr. Zara Boland, and featured Jayne Vitale (North Shore Animal League), Stasha Becker (Photographer), behaviorist Dr. Ilana Reisner and Charley Bednarsh, director of Children’s Services, Brooklyn Family Justice Center. Additional nuggets from this great session:
- Dogs have been with people for 35-40 thousand years, in a symbiotic relationship that today goes beyond simple survival.
- Are families evolving to fit pets needs, or are pets evolving?
- Today it’s vital we teach children empathy as a skill.
- Damaged kids identify with shelter pets–both may be orphans, homeless or have suffered terrible experiences. Pets allow kids to voice their fears and experiences
- People are made up of memories, and pets can empower people during tragedy that “you can change for the better” and survive.
Stay tuned for the next blog on the “experiential” side of the event. And meanwhile, you can learn more at this link to #BetterWithPets.
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