Date : Thursday 28th March 2019
Feline Behavioural Medicine
The influence of feline emotional health on the veterinary visit and on physical health
The importance of appropriate handling of cats in a veterinary context is increasing. An understanding of the cat's natural behavioural patterns and their influence on feline behavioural responses is essential. Veterinary personnel need to learn how to effectively handle cats in order to minimise negative emotion for the cat and resulting stress for owners and practice staff. Reducing negative feline emotions will also be beneficial in terms of minimising the risk of physical injury. The presence of a bilateral relationship between emotional and physical health is an important consideration in general veterinary practice. There are many disease states in which the presence of negative emotion and chronic physiological stress play a role. Comprehensive behavioural history taking is therefore a vital component of investigation for feline medicine cases.
The potential for the domestic environment to compromise natural feline behaviour
The environment, both social and physical, influences emotional motivations and minimising negative emotion is important in order to optimise emotional and physical health. Optimising feline environments relies on a good understanding of their natural behaviour and their environmental needs. Environments need to be established with the number of feline social groups in mind and this is particularly important in multicat households. The term environmental enrichment is often used in the context of improving the domestic environment but this implies providing something in excess of what is required. This is not accurate since creating homes where basic feline behavioural needs are met is a necessity and not an optional extra. The term environmental optimisation is therefore more accurate and sub optimal environments can be detrimental.
Dr Sarah Heath
BVSc DipECAWBM(BM) CCAB FRCVS
Sarah Heath qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Bristol University in 1988 and spent four years in a mixed general practice before setting up Behavioural Referrals Veterinary Practice in 1992. She is an honorary lecturer in Behavioural Medicine within the faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool and responsible for the behavioural medicine curriculum for undergraduate veterinary students. In addition to her clinical and teaching work Sarah has written a number of books and regularly contributes to veterinary publications on behavioural topics. She also lectures at home and abroad on the topic of animal behaviour.
She became the first veterinary member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors in 1990. In 2001 she was awarded the Melton Award by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) for meritorious contributions to small animal practice and in 2002 was awarded the Vetlink Award for outstanding service to the Veterinary Nursing Profession. She was a founding member of the BSAVA affiliated Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy Study Group and served as its secretary for 7 years. Sarah is the co-founder of the International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting which is now established as the most important international congress on Veterinary Behavioural Medicine and is held every other year. In 2002 she became a Founding Diplomate of the European College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine and served as the second President of that College from 2003 to 2008. She is a European Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine (Companion Animals). She is Immediate Past President of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology.
Hope to see you there.
Dr Ruan Bester, Howie Wong
HKVA CPD Coordinators
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