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Because Life is #BetterWithPets

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Life is better with pets. It may seem like an obvious statement, considering that pets can lower your blood pressure, increase literacy rates in children, and have thousands of other reciprocal effects. But, sometimes we need reminding.

Purina® hosted the one-day “Better with Pets” summit in New York city this year. While the event is now in its 3rd year, this was my first year in attendance, and I’m very excited I was able to attend. I want to summarize some of the key points we covered. Next week, we’ll be diving into some of these complex and inspiring topics.

The event was hosted by Emmy-nominated comedian and writer, Josh Gondelman, and featured two keynote speakers and three guest panels that focused on three very important topics:

[note style=”5″ icon=”yes”]Purina paid for the costs of attending this event and I am being compensated for helping spread the word the word about Purina’s Better with Pets summit, but PetsWeekly only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Purina is not responsible for the content of this article.[/note]

[heading style=”fancy” color=”#006699″ style_color=”#006699″]1. Our Evolving Relationship with Cats[/heading]

Cats have always had a tumultuous history with humans. We’ve worshiped them (in ancient Egypt), we’ve persecuted them (during the Middle Ages) and we’ve assigned many superstitions to them (even today). Now we’re treating them as we would want to be treated and that’s a big movement forward.

We really loved this panel because the way cats are treated in the world has not only evolved, but blossomed. I feel like we’re fast evolving into a world that treats all animals the same as we do people. And that’s a good thing. The panel was moderated by Hal Herzog (Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University and author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals (P.S.) – a book I ordered immediately and read on the plane ride home – more about that soon).

This panel featured Sandra Lyn (Cat behaviorist at Nestle’ Purina, and easily one of my most favorite people in the world), Christina Ha (Co-Founder of Cat Cafe, Meow Parlour), and Mikel Delgado (Co-owner of Feline Minds). This was easily my favorite panel because, of course, you all know how much I love my cats.

The panel focused on our evolving relationship with cats and what it suggests for the next “age” (the Millennial age) of humans. Personally, I feel that this relationship with cats (and all animals) is stronger than ever. The Baby Boomers were successful in their quest to anthropomorphize (assign human characteristics) to animals (thanks, Disney!!). The X- and Y-generations have succeeded in integrating our relationship with technology by allowing us full time access to our pets. I believe the Millennials will be responsible for defining our relationship with animals by focusing our relationship as members of the family.  

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[heading style=”fancy” color=”#006699″ style_color=”#006699″]2. Stress, Our Pets and Us[/heading]

Dr. Marty Becker was the moderator on this panel, which featured some truly amazing people: Ragen McGowan (senior scientist at Nestle Purina), Heather Lewis (Principal, Animal Arts and so very interesting and inspiring!) and Tony Buffington (Professor at Ohio State University; his emphasis is studying stress effects on disease, obesity, evidence-based medicine and effective medical communications).

The panel explored the sources and effects of stress on pets, as well as how to manage our pet’s emotional well-being. I truly loved this panel as it explores ways we can make our home more appealing to pets and also discussed ways to change the shelter system to increase adoptions.

Part of this means changing the cage environment to one of a “home environment” which not only keeps animals more relaxed, but helps them adjust to new homes more easily. Kennel stress is an awful thing. We basically imprison animals because of irresponsible adults.

This panel made me want to come home and start revitalization programs in every shelter near us.

[heading style=”fancy” color=”#006699″ style_color=”#006699″]3. Raising Pets and Kids[/heading]

This panel was moderated by Zara Boland (Global Communications Team, Nestle’ Purina), and featured speakers Jayne Vitale (Program Director, North Shore Animal League), Stasha Becker (Professional Photographer), Ilana Reisner (Owner of Reisner Veterinary Behavior and Consulting Services), and Charley Bednarsh (Director of Children’s Services, Brooklyn Family Justice Center).

Did you know that having pets can increase a child’s literacy rate?

When children read to pets, they aren’t focused on what others think of them. They are focused on keeping the animal entertained. they immediately relax, forget how they “sound” to others, and allow the dog or cat to calm them. Their own worries drift off into the world and they can move into the “now”. The Safe Haven group is now incorporating dogs into court hearings when children are forced to testify or remember a particularly difficult time in their life. The dogs presence helps calm them and keep them centered. I can’t think of a better program to support!

Photography is also increasingly important when it comes to adoption rates. In an age of selfies, narcissism, and immediate gratification; it’s more important than ever to have professional  photos that effectively capture an animal’s personality.  Adoption rates are on the rise thanks to social media that find new ways to capture an animal. Please help your favorite rescue get online as social media is a powerful weapon against animal abuse and in the fight to improve conditions for pets by encouraging adoption.

Featured keynotes included Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, who created a unique program for the children of a remote Alaskan village. This is something you have to see to fully understand the importance of, so we’ve posted the video below. We hope you’ll watch it and become inspired to create a program of your own. 

[bt_youtube url=”http://youtu.be/Fs9pbMTawE0″ width=”600″ height=”400″ responsive=”yes” autoplay=”no”][/bt_youtube] 

The conference was amazing and we had an incredible time. The second half of the day was reserved for interactive exhibits designed to educate and train, which allows us to bring that knowledge to you, the reader.

We urge you to visit their website, BetterWithPets to learn more about feline design, teaching kids to be around pets, working with shelters, and much more. In the upcoming months, you’ll be reading a lot about behavior, educating children, and expanding our homes to include unique ways to make our pets feel like a part of our family – after all, life is better with pets.

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