In the past two decades, you’ve come a long way, kitties. And, your future looks bright. That’s because life for cats in the next decade is expected to be welcoming, wonderful and, yes, innovative on so many fronts.
Catster reached out to leading feline experts in the pet industry to ask them to describe what life will be like for cats within the next decades. Check out their educated predictions:
SHIFTING SHELTERS’ FOCUS
Look for animal shelters around the country to sport new purposes and identities. The days of shelters regarded as pounds where homeless pets were often euthanized due to pet overpopulation are fading.
That’s the belief of two animal shelter leaders: Dr. Gary Weitzman, president of the San Diego Humane Society, and Rich Anderson, CEO of the Peggy Adams Rescue League in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“I definitely see a new focus on shelters to find ways that allow people to keep their pets in their homes by providing affordable veterinary services,” Dr. Weitzman says. “I’m talking wellness, vaccinations, deworming and microchipping being done as well as more mobile units out into the community to deliver food and supplies to those in need so that they can keep their pets and not surrender them due to financial hardships. Why, I even see microchip (identification) scanners at every fire station so people can bring lost pets to one of the friendliest places on Earth to be scanned quickly for identification and, hopefully, to reunite the pets with their pet parents.”
Rich Anderson hopes that animal shelters will transform from being places for abandoned or lost animals to major community leaders in animal welfare. And, cool places for pet people to gather. His shelter recently opened a cat café with adoptable felines mingling with coffee drinkers.
“Adoption and foster programs have become so successful that more attention and resources are being able to shift toward programs meant to prevent animals from entering shelters in the first place,” Rich says. “Our Safety Net programs that offer affordable and free veterinary care and our free pet food pantry continue to be expanded.”
Your cat’s veterinarian will see you now — any time of the day or night. But the two of you may not be in the same exam room or even in the same city or state. Welcome to a fast-expanding segment of veterinary medicine — telehealth. Live vet chats and video consults are giving pet parents immediate access to veterinarians ready to field pet health questions and queries.
“Telehealth medicine is definitely here to stay and will change how we practice veterinary medicine in a major way,” says Dr. Kelly Diehl, internal medicine veterinarian and senior director of science and communications for the Morris Animal Foundation. “Look for more behavior consultations, health follow-ups and much more to be done via telehealth instead of a phone call or making an in-person appointment.”
Leading the way in this new movement are telehealth companies Airvet, Dutch and Fuzzy.
Telemedicine does not come without risks, as in any type of medicine practiced. There can be adverse drug interactions or missed diagnoses due to poor imaging transmissions. And, laws on veterinary telemedicine vary by state. Some states allow veterinarians to form remote relationships for pet care in what is known as VCPR (veterinarian-client-patient-relationship) and some do not.
To find out what the legal status for telemedicine is in your state, visit the Veterinary Virtual Care Association’s website at vvca.org. The site features a veterinary telemedicine regulatory map of current VCPR laws in every state.
Not every cat lover has a personal cat. Some may feel unable to adopt a real cat due to work commitments, allergies or other issues. That doesn’t diminish their love or need for feline friendship.
For some, the solution may be in battery-operated robotic cats. A new study based on research conducted by Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing verifies that the healing power of pets is not limited to real ones. These faux felines can improve mood, behavior and cognition in people with dementia and those who live alone, reside in senior care facilities or are hospitalized.
“Engagement with pets increases your endorphins and helps decrease your risk of cognitive decline,” says Lisa Kirk Wiese, PhD, RN, and an associate professor at FAU. “These robotic cats help some relate back to a time when they had pets and evoke feelings of joy and happiness. They definitely help to lift one’s spirits.”
REVEALING AT-HOME GENETIC TESTS
In recent years, thousands of people have turned to such ancestry DNA sources as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to discover their family tree of relatives dating back generations.
That sparked Anna Skaya to create Basepaws, a company that offers at-home test kits to identify what breeds and predisposed health conditions an individual cat may have.
“Through our industry-leading science and a growing community of pet parents, veterinary professionals and research partners, we are enhancing the quality of life of pets across the world by identifying signs of active diseases,” says Anya Ryan, Basepaws’ chief “meowketing” officer. “Basepaws has evolved into the largest genetics testing company for cats and now has a wide offering of at-home testing kits for everything from breed to oral health screening.”
And, Basepaws is not stopping there.
“Over the next 5 to 10 years, Basepaws will be releasing a wide variety of health-focused testing for cats,” she adds. “Additionally, we’ve developed a veterinary-focused Breed and Health test for cats that just launched and will be offered at veterinary offices during a cat’s health exam.”
DISHING UP ALTERNATIVE EATS
Cats have and always will be obligate carnivores whose bodies depend on quality protein to survive and thrive. Make way for an emerging clean pet food revolution that offers new protein sources to keep cats of all ages healthy. More cats in the next decade will be eating alternative proteins from plants, fungi, cell-based meat products and yes, insects. Also, look for more fresh-from-the-fridge prepared meals and chow packed with probiotics, prebiotics and supplements.
Veterinarians recognized a growing trend in commercial pet food that creates diets that may aid in treating a wide range of diseases. And, more will be eco-friendly.
“We need foods to be free of contaminants, such as antibiotic residues, hormones, toxins, pesticides and disease-causing pathogens,” writes Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in his breakthrough book The Clean Pet Food Revolution.
EXPLORING THE OUTDOORS SAFELY
Look for more confident indoor cats to join their people in kayaks, inside secure backpacks on hikes and even be part of family Airbnb vacations. Welcome to the age of adventure cats.
Emily Hall, creator of KittyCatGo has blazed this cats-up-for-adventure movement and takes her feline crew hiking, canoeing, on road trips and more.
“As adventuring with cats grows in popularity, more people will realize that cats can and do love adventuring safely outside, and they will begin to raise their cats differently,” Emily says. “Harness and leash-training will be the norm, and cats’ lifestyles will include time outdoors in a controlled way. Cats will be included in family travels and vacations rather than being left at home.”
Unleashed! (well, not really)
Now kitty can safely explore the outdoors by your side with a harness made just for cats. Here are three faves to check out.
Martingale Cat Harness; $32.99. sleepypod.com
Come With Me Kitty Cat Harness & Bungee Leash; $16.95. store.petsafe.net
Kitty Holster Cat Harness Royal Blue Cherry Blossom; $49.99. crazy-k-farm.myshopify.com