Monday, August 21, 2017

How do you find a missing cat? Interview with Brigid Wasson.

cat, missing cat, missing pet
Has your cat ever gone missing? Did you ever find out where he/she went? Often, it isn't far at all.

Do you or have you lived with a cat? Ever had a cat go missing? It is a traumatic experience. Sometimes there’s that moment of panic, then you find them later – curled up in a wardrobe or hiding in the garden. But when they are missing for days, weeks, and months on end, it is extremely upsetting. This is when you wish they could just text you and let you know they’re sleeping a few houses up the road, or they can’t find they’re way home but they don’t think they’re far. Unfortunately, they can’t.

Brigid Wasson is presenting at the Getting 2Zero conference on reuniting owners with lost cats as quickly as possible.

Brigid is a lifetime animal welfare professional and retired animal shelter director. She has held positions of leadership in both government and nonprofit animal service agencies, focusing on implementing lifesaving programs and increasing live release from as low as 60% to over 90%.

Brigid became interested in lost pet prevention and recovery in 2008 when she discovered Missing Pet Partnership, and in 2014 was invited to join the Board of Directors. She currently serves as President of the organization and manages the animal shelter initiatives including Mission Reunite, which teaches animal shelter/pound management, staff, volunteers, and community partners to work together to increase owner reunions and decrease shelter intake.

Getting pets back home quickly saves resources that can be better utilized for animals truly in need of a new home such as cruelty or neglect cases. Brigid lives in Sonoma County, CA and is the CEO and Principal Consultant of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting.

What’s your day job?

I provide consulting for animal pounds and shelters and their community partners on best practices and lifesaving programs.

Why did you become interested in the fate of missing cats?

I have been a cat lover all my life. Since I was a child I connected with them. As an adult working in the animal shelters, I was horrified to see what happens to cats there. There are tens of thousands of healthy, friendly adult cats that are rarely reclaimed, either being euthanized or sitting in cages for weeks or months before being adopted. On the other side of the door you have cat owners grieving for their missing pets, not knowing how to find them, and often starting their shelter search too late, or giving up too soon. There’s a huge gap between what owners need to do and what shelter leaders need to do to keep cats at home and stop this madness.

Where are people most likely to find a missing cat?

Hiding close to home, sometimes even in the home! Generally, cats do not travel far like dogs, so they are often found under decks, in bushes, in sheds in the yard of the owner or a close neighbour. Sometimes they are just scared, other times they are stuck or hiding because they are ill or injured. This is why it is so important to start a thorough search quickly.

In what time frame are most missing cats found?

It varies. Some are found a day or two after going missing, while others are found weeks later. I don’t think there’s any magic number, it’s just a combination of the owner actively searching and the cat coming out of hiding and revealing his location.

If someone loses a cat, what advice would you give them?

Start looking right away. Don’t assume he’ll come home. Follow the advice on our web site and seek the assistance of a professional if you feel you can’t do it alone. Learn the shelter (pound) system and check them frequently. While most cats are recovered close to home, someone may have taken your cat to a shelter because they believed they were lost, or because they appeared ill or injured. [Ed. Its also good to contact vet clinics in the area as strays can be brought in there].

How can we prevent cats getting lost in the first place?

Keep them confined to your property. Microchip and register.

If someone finds a cat (that isn’t theirs), what should they do?

In most cases, nothing. The majority of cats one will see outside are owned pets not in need of any kind of “rescuing.” If you are concerned, you can check with neighbours to see if anyone is missing a cat or has brought a new cat home. Bringing a healthy, friendly cat to a shelter takes him out of his home environment and almost ensures that he will never see it again.

That said, if you have free roaming, breeding cats in your neighbourhood, you may want to get in touch with an organization in your community that offers low cost spay neuter (desexing) and vaccination to reduce and improve the health of the population.

Kittens – preferably waiting till they are eight weeks of age, unless you are certain that the mother is gone – and cats that appear ill or injured should be brought to the local veterinary hospital or shelter/pound for medical attention.

What non-human(s) do you share your life with and how did you meet.

Many! In fact, I chose the city I live in based on, among other things, the fact that it does not have a cat limit. We have a large cat family, each with his or her own story. We have four dogs of varying sizes and personalities, and two horses.

Any advice you’d like to share with veterinarians and future veterinarians?

As highly respected professionals, your word is gospel for many in the animal world. Because of that, you have an obligation to educate yourself and, consequently, the public with whom you interact, on animal welfare issues. We hear too many stories of veterinarians not questioning new pets recently found by “owners,” not scanning for microchips, and in some cases taking in stray pets and giving them away without making any attempt to find the owner. A few words of advice for both owners and finders of missing pets would go a long way, as would office policies that favour pet and rightful owner reunion.

Thank you Brigid for your time. You can read more about Brigid on her website or on facebook. You can register or find out more about Getting 2 Zero here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What does a vet look like?

This is what Google returned today when did an image search on "veterinarian". Note that we stereotype patients as well (only one in 16 images of a cat, and one in 16 features wildlife - spot the Koala!).

What does a vet look like? You might be one, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise to close your eyes and consider what comes into your head: a male? A female? James Herriot? Chris Brown or Katrina Warren?

Or according the Google image I did, someone wearing either a lab coat or scrubs, accessorised with an occasionally used stethoscope, concerned about mostly cute dogs and looking impeccably groomed (obviously the photos were taken during the first minute of the first consult of the day!).

But are these stereotypes limiting? Veterinarians are trying to break the mould, challenging the stereotype that every veterinarian is a clinician, belongs to a particular race or gender or class or does not have any disabilities, and looks like they could just hop onto the cat walk.

It started with an article about sexism in our profession, published in The Guardian

The hashtag #looklikeavet was born, appearing on twitter, facebook and Instagram, challenging stereotypes about veterinarians. You can read the background here.

If you want to join in, use the hashtag #looklikeavet. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Support for LGBTQI+ vets, nurses, students and others

Rainbow dog, LGBTQI veterinarians
That day Phil sat in a rainbow in my office. Truth is, animals really don't care whether you're LGBTQI, straight or non-identifying. Another reason we love them.
What does Australia’s marriage equality debate have to do with veterinarians? A lot, it seems. We’ve been contacted by people who have been hurt by comments made on social media over recent weeks so we thought we should post about this.

Veterinarians are Homo sapiens, i.e. just as human as everyone else (though it would be possibly hugely advantageous to be part non-human, as it may give us greater understanding of our patients. We digress).

Not all humans are heterosexual, but all of them have feelings. We know that veterinarians, as professionals, struggle with a higher rate of suicide and mental health issues than many other groups. Unfortunately, LGBTQI and other non-heterosexual identifying persons also struggle with the same. LGBTQI veterinarians have a double whammy. And yet, we’re all people. Struggling with the same issues. Doing our very best to help our patients, looking after the health of animals and the people they interact with. Imagine having to justify your identity on top of that, to people whose business it probably isn’t anyway. 

The distress is out there, its real, and its having an impact on some very dedicated vets, nurses, groomers, kennel-hands, receptionists, practice managers, couriers, specialists and others (including clients of veterinary services) who just want to provide great care and be accepted for who they are.

Given what we’ve heard recently, we wanted to remind everyone that its okay to seek support. If the recent discussion has upset you, it’s okay to talk about it and there are some great resources.

The Australian Veterinary Association provides a free, 24-hour counselling service to members.

All Australian universities provide student services which offer counselling and referral (usually at no cost to students). In addition, many Australian universities have rolled out Ally training for LGBTQI-friendly staff to promote a welcoming, safe and supportive environment, promote a stronger and more inclusive community and to challenge homophobia and homophobic attitudes and behaviours.

For example, you can see the University of Sydney’s information about the Ally Network here.

QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI). It provides phone 1800 184 527 and online counselling from 3pm-midnight and online resources at

Beyond Blue has a 24 hour hotline 1300 224 636 and information online

Lifeline has a 24 hotline 13 11 14 and information online  

VetLife is a UK based charity providing a confidential hotline but also a range of information resources on the website

Mensline is a telephone and online support and information service for Australian men (24 hours) 1300 789 978.

There are also associations you can join or communicate with, including the Lesbian and Gay Veterinary Medical Association in the US ( and the British Veterinary LGBT+ group ( in the UK.

At SAT we believe everyone deserves respect, that diversity is one of the coolest things about being a person, and that the world is better the more we can minimise the hurting and promote the well-being of animals AND humans. Isn’t that what being a vet is all about?

For this reason, we support our LGBTQI colleagues. Please look out for your colleagues (and yourselves), some of whom might need a bit of extra time, a cuppa, or even a word of support. 

UPDATE: Kate sent us a link for the Gender Centre in Sydney. Check it out here: 

UPDATE: SAT reader Anthony shared this fantastic resource from ACON. You can download it here: 

And if you know of any other support groups, please drop us a line so we can share it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's the environmental impact of pet food?

cat, Hero, hungry, cat food
According to a recent report, we should be concerned about the environmental footprint of pet food.

Should we be concerned about the environmental, and indeed animal welfare footprint, of pet food? A recent paper based on US figures argues that we should. Gregory Okin, from the University of California, Los Angeles, set out to determine how much energy and animal derived products pets consume, and the environmental impact.

The paper is, necessarily, based on a lot of assumptions – from the average sized American dog (22kg +/- 1.2kg) and cat (4.2kg +/- 0.2kg), and their energy requirements (544kJ/kg per day), to the amount of food consumed (the calculations were based on dry foods, as the author states these outsell wet foods by 3:1) to the proportion of animal vs plant derived energy in each food. You can read the methodology in full in the open access paper, published in PLoS ONE.

Assuming these assumptions are correct, the author concludes that in the US, dogs and cats consume 19 +/- 2% of the amount of total dietary energy that humans do, and a whopping 33 +/- 9% of animal derived energy. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of 62 million Americans (about one fifth of the US population). He also concludes that these pets produce a staggering 30 +/- 13% of the faeces that humans do (based on the assumption that humans produce – weight for it – 0.147kg per capita of faeces per day, while cats produce 0.042kg per cat per day, and dogs produce 0.15 +/- 0.07kg  per dog per day.

Because of their diets, Okin conclude that are responsible for 25-30 per cent of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocide impacts related to animal production. He estimates that they are responsible for the production of 64 +/-16 million tonnes of greenhouse cases (C02-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide).

What can we do? Okin suggests either reducing the numbers of pet dogs and cats, and/or reducing overfeeding, reducing waste, and developing pet foods based on alternative protein sources would help. Given the number of animals that need homes, the latter solution seems to me more palatable than the former, although avoiding overfeeding of animals is important for their welfare as well as reducing their environmental impact. It also makes sense to consider the animal welfare impact of pet food, although it was not touched on in this paper.

It will be interesting to learn how pet food manufacturers digest this information. Certainly, it seems there is a need for pet foods that have reduced environmental impact.

Please read the full paper (link below).


Okin GS (2017) Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats. PLoS ONE 12(8):e0181301.

Monday, August 7, 2017

International conference on human-animal interactions to be held in Sydney

paw prints in sand; dog feet; pawprints

If you’re interested in human-animal interactions, you’ll be pleased to know that the International Society for Anthrozoology is hosting its 27th annual conference in Australia.

“Animals in Our Lives – Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human-Animal Interactions” will be hosted at the Charles PerkinsCentre, University of Sydney, from July 2 to 5, 2018.

If you’d like to SPEAK at the conference, you have until January 2018 to submit an abstract. 

Abstract topics include:
  • Human-wildlife conflict/interactions
  • Animals and human health and development 
  • Interactions with invertebrate animals 
  • Grief studies 
  • Animals kept in zoos – visitor studies; attitudes toward zoos 
  • Animals used in farming: effects of stockpersons on; attitudes toward 
  • Strategies to keep animals out of shelters and improve rehoming rates 
  • Cultural and cross-cultural studies (e.g., indigenous people’s relationships with animals) 
  • Attitudes toward animals and animal issues 
  • Animal personality research 
  • Representations of human–animal interaction – e.g., art, literature, media – and their influence on human–animal interactions 
  • Historical aspects of our interactions with other animals 
  • Cruelty to animals/animal abuse 
  • The ethics of animal use
Follow the event on facebook here 

Join the mailing list here:

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Vet Cook Book is one step closer!

I really love food t shirt
If you really, really love food, you'll love this book. But even if you can't and don't want to cook, we promise it will be a good read.

One of the projects we’ve been involved with over the last twelve months is the Vet Cook Book. This week we can announce that we have partnered with a publisher, the Centre for Veterinary Education (CVE).

It’s huge news as this project is a biggy, and these things don’t get done without serious work. Over 100 contributors from around the world have submitted recipes, stories, photos and mental health tips to the Vet Cook Book.

felafel; Vet Cook Book
We've included Dr Magdoline Awad's mum's falafel recipe...
Nothing like this has been attempted before.

Deepa Gopinath, Asti May, Jenna Moss Davis and myself have been working hard testing recipes, editing recipes (you’d be surprised how easy it is to confuse teaspoon with tablespoon, and how that can make a good recipe go South, especially when baking which I learned involves precise measuring), tasting, jostling would-be contributors, chasing up recipe I-O-Us, and sourcing the odd exotic ingredient. There have been excursions to supermarkets, the acquisition of appliances, the use of the aforementioned, and many dishes done.
But we can only do so much. So it is AMAZING to get (more than) a little help from our friends. The CVE are big supporters of the veterinary profession, through a variety of high quality continuing education events, distance education programs as well as publications such as Control and Therapy. They are just as concerned about the mental health issues impacting the veterinary profession, and are keen to promote collegiality.

Dr Mike Woodham, founder of the veterinary orchestra, has contributed a recipe and a discussion about music and its connection to mental health.
What’s left to do?

  • Final editing.
  • Design & Layout.
  • Printing.
  • Distribution.

The Vet Cook Book
A number of students contributed, including Sharmila the DVM student who submitted two mind-blowingly delicious recipes.
You guys run to your mailbox or pick up a book from a pre-arranged site, hold it in your hands, read it and think “wow”.

You cook something.

You invite someone over to share it.

You talk. You laugh. You cry. You plan another get together and look forward to it.

You make something and take it to work to share with colleagues. They smile.

You leave a copy in the staff room and someone, somewhere, reads a mental health tip that resonates with them and adopts it into their life. Or they might skip everything, head straight to the resource page, and contact one of a large number of organisations offering assistance.

Its a not-for-profit project that we hope makes a real difference.

The plan is for a release towards the end of the year, in time for Christmas. We’re currently compiling a list of those interested in purchasing a copy or more, so if you are interested please email us with your name, contact details and the number of copies you think you might want. In the meantime, we have a little more work to do. Thank you for the support!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Meeting cats' welfare needs

Litter tray
Saki demonstrates use of her litter box.
How do you keep your cat happy? Understanding their welfare needs is the key. I was asked to write about this for the International Society of Feline Medicine, in their journal Feline Focus.

This was a fun article to write and did involve visiting some clients and colleagues to check out their cat-friendly home modifications, indoor cat gardens and an array of amazing litter trays (you will note Saki, the ginger cat, modelling the Modkat litter box, prompting her owner to exclaim that her cat is now a “litter model”).

Nurses, technicians and the feline-minded can sign up for free to get monthly access to Feline Focus, as well as participate in free webinars (as a vet I've actually found the nurse webinars really helpful).

Find out more here