Blazing the trail for cats – International Cat Care turns 60
2018 marks the 60-year anniversary of International Cat Care, previously known as the Feline Advisory Bureau, a charity working towards a vision that all cats, owned and unowned, are treated with care, compassion and understanding.
International Cat Care now is also known for its veterinary division, the International Society of Feline Medicine, its Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, its conferences in Europe and Asia, its Cat Friendly Clinic Programme and free nurse membership and Feline Focus magazine. It has veterinary and nurse members in 71 countries around the world and is seeing a rapid growth in interest in feline medicine. But it wasn’t always thus…!
Sixty years ago almost nothing was known about cat diseases, and feline medicine was greatly neglected. Charles Povey, the charity’s first Research fellow has said in an article written for International Cat Care’s 60th birthday, ‘It is impossible for a veterinary graduate of today to image the ignorance of feline medicine in the veterinary graduate of the early 1960s. Many viral conditions had not even been recognised (eg, feline infectious peritonitis), feline viral rhinotracheitis virus had just been discovered and it would be another decade before the role of caliciviruses in respiratory virus became clearer. The association of virus with feline lymphosarcoma and the understanding of the viral basis of feline leukaemia complex were yet to come. Vaccination for prevention of upper respiratory infection in cats would have been regarded as science fiction, not to mention the prospect of a vaccine for leukaemia.’
Things changed because, in 1958, one woman decided that the suffering of cats due to lack of knowledge could no longer be tolerated. Joan Judd, a cat lover and breeder, believed that an organisation should be set up to fund research into feline health, and form a platform for exchange of information and veterinary medical studies. Thus, she founded the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB), the forerunner of International Cat Care.
FAB at first consisted only of one or two dedicated volunteers. They were faced with a list of unknowns about cat health that was infinitely long, and an empty money pot, making the task ahead of them dizzyingly vast. And yet they persevered (just how difficult it was is outlined in the longer version of the charity’s history on its website at https://icatcare.org/60/history). Today, the charity’s name reflects its role in feline medicine and feline welfare all over the world, and consists of a professional staff of 22.
International Cat Care’s work has helped to create a different world for cats, where knowledge of health issues has led to vaccines, treatments and a desire to improve the care of cats in ways unrecognisable all those years ago. By providing advice and training on cat health and welfare to vets, nurses, breeders, cat professionals and owners, it is estimated that the charity touches the lives of over 25 million cats worldwide annually. Hopefully Joan Judd would be pleased!
Now, the charity wishes to turn additional efforts towards unowned cats, the welfare of which has not really changed a great deal in those 60 years. International Cat Care has the expertise to help unowned cats, looking at the underlying causes and collaborating to develop sustainable solutions to overpopulation and abandonment, and has several 60th anniversary projects with this aim.
The first project is the charity’s new ‘International Declaration of Responsibilities to Cats’. This is an important document defining best practice for governments, local authorities, vets, charities, breeders, cat owners and other individuals working with cats, emphasising the need for all these groups to work together to improve the welfare of unowned cats as well as owned. Anyone who cares for cats is asked to sign it online. For more information, see: https://icatcare.org/declaration.
In February the charity will be launching its new ‘Cat Cocktail Party Packs’ – free packs designed to help cat lovers throw a fun cat-themed cocktail party to raise vital funds for the charity’s 60thprojects. International Cat Care is grateful for every donation, and the more it receives, the more it can continue to help make the world a better place for cats, owned and unowned alike.