Skype chat, Alana Stevenson and Dr. Sally Foote, veterinarian and educator, on the Feline Fundamentals Low-Stress Handling webinars.

Unfortunately, the audio is terrible on this recording on my end, so only a segment is posted. You can read the dialogue below.

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Dr. Foote: One thing that I say that I also really like about your webinars is that you do give a lot of photographs, a lot of specific examples of the how to do it, and these are coming from real life situations. You know, they’re coming from like a shelter, and you’re sharing content from some of the other educators, like Sheliah Robertson, and Dr Ilona Rodan etc. But it is, it’s in the real life. Okay, That’s what makes it, I think, helpful for people to learn by, and also would you do this in the home? How will you do this if you’re the foster? But, from this second webinar, what would be the most underlying message or knowledge you really want to make sure that that student takes away and uses tomorrow, and can come away with, and start doing.

Alana: One, not scruffing as the go-to. Approaching the cat from behind, and moving slowly, and I think a big one is how we can handle the cat and do a lot of stuff by simply covering the cat’s head with a towel, if they want to hide, especially those kitties who are fearful. Most cats, especially in veterinary settings and so forth, they’re hissing and growling. Most of them just want to hide and disappear, and the moment you try to shake them out of the carrier, pull them out by the scruff, or the moment they visually see what’s going on they will absolutely panic. And simply by having them on something soft, covering their face gently, and not handling them from the front can really change the behavioral response of cats.

Dr. Foote:  You know what, I started thinking to myself, I mean I always worked that way around cats, but the more I learned about the interaction between an animal and how our body language and approach affects an animal, I really got it. Okay, I understood it. I started to realize that, you know what, with a lot of large animals, we always approach from the side, and maybe it’s their visual field we are told, but also it is less threatening to them and obviously you do not want a 2000 lb. animal threatened, they could kill you. So, I think we’re much more mindful, of say, if I need to come up to a cow and examine their eye or feel their lymph nodes under their jaw, how I walk up, how I put my hands on this cow, or this horse, or this large animal, and that then as I was more conscious of how it made it better for a dog and cat to do that, and I do the same with a cat, I realized, you know what, this is just like say, approach them like you would a large animal which is going to be from the side, it’s going to be purposeful, but slow enough so that they know what to expect, so they’re less likely to react, and I don’t think we’ve ever put in our heads, how yes, a 10 lb. cat may not cause you quite as much damage as a 2000 lb. cow, yet what’s going on for the animal, the animal’s welfare, is just as important for that 10lb. cat as the 2000 lb. cow. So it’s not that hard for me to just change my approach, and still get that eye examination, and other things like that, or even if I’m a with a client, just showing clients — always come in from the side of the mouth with a syringe with a liquid medication, only half a ml at a time. Don’t just try to squirt it bc you’re choking them. They’re like, ‘Oh.’ That one small bit, like we talked about before, is like a huge, huge bit.

I think that how you are educating this, and the webinars, that these three points will be brought out, and I think they’re going to be not only brought out as a theory, but also what do I different now? How do I put it into action? And that’s always so important to see enough of so that the students can put themselves in that role and do it.

Alana: I think it’s very important too, especially in the kitty world, there is the physical well-being and the emotional well-being and they’re one and the same. You don’t want the kitty to be physically healthy, but then mentally traumatized and stressed, and then they’re brought to a shelter because of behavioral problems. A happy kitty is a less stressed out kitty. There are additional illnesses they can get from stress, and that people generally separate those two, mental health from physical health, and really the mental and emotional well-being of the cat or any animal is as important, and sometimes more important, because that is a part of the physical, but we tend to just segregate them and separate them as if they’re not related.

Dr. Foote: That’s very true and I think part of that reason is bc still our medical education, it keeps them very separated, that we are not taught this integration of the mental state, emotional state, and how it effects biologically, biochemically, and then affects the physical state, or then how the physical state, the changes in rising blood sugar, poor oxygen in the blood stream is going to then affect the brain, and you may see anxiety. You may see aggression. You may see a compulsive disorder, and so how the two are confluent is not the present day medical educational model in human medicine or in veterinary medicine. It is still, some people will call behavior the soft science, and that more of clinical pathology, surgery, radiology, pharmacology, all the  —ologies, parasitology, are all the hard science, and of course too, I think the hard science is kind of more fun. Isn’t it exciting to put in a new multimillion linear accelerator for cancer care or an MRI for diagnosing brain lesions, yet we have 48% of our dogs being brought to a shelter, 48% of the dogs in a shelter are coming in at the ages of 6 months to 3 yrs of age bc they’re jumping up. They’re biting, there’s now over-barking, or they have high anxiety problems which are all behavior problems.

And our cats, I’m not sure the statistics, specifically, on the cats, but probably I think it’s at least 35-40% of the cats coming into shelters are because of housesoiling problems, which again, is most often related to lack of shelves and catios like you have in your beautiful home there. I mean, you have kitty heaven in your room there, and that there is a big help to the cat. But as a like a doctor, it’s not taught in internal medicine. Part of treating diabetes is to get these shelves around the house, to get the cat to moving more, to lose weight and being less stressed.

And so, I think your webinars are helping to bring that education about and in a way that is not only just for the medical professional, but also for the non-medical professional bc they’re part of echoing this message. And also when they’re there at a rescue, or they are the foster who is needed to put the ear drops in to treat ear mites, or eye drops in to treat bc of feline herpes virus, and now they are  actually using the side approach or using a cowel, and not scruffing, and now this cat gets adopted. They’ll show that adopter this is how we put the drops in, in this less stressful way, and it’s going to be part of that ripple effect that’s going to help people do this and learn this.

So, I think it’s great, I’m so excited that you are part of the publishing company with these webinars now, and can share them and have them posted in different places.

Alana: And I think what’s really important in general for cats, and animals, and behavior is that compassion, it’s silly, but compassion is cool. Compassion is very important for mental and physical health. I think, too much in our industry, whether its training or whether it’s medical or pharmaceutical, being compassionate or gentle is considered a weakness. Well, I hope I that that will change over time, and that people who are more skilled will also be looked at as gentle and more compassionate, and vice versa.

Dr. Foote: That’s kind of that art and science of behavior, the art and science of medicine come together. You’ve go to take that hard fact, but you need to also know how to apply it, in a situation that’s specific, in this case an animal, that creates the best experience, and that’s blending the two.