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Supporting Cats Through Science, Research, and Volunteerism – A Volunteer Blog

I am a scientist. Probably always have been. I used to harass my dad by asking so many ‘why’ questions, and he had the patience to encourage my inquisitive thinking and wondering.

I first learned of EveryCat Health Foundation (then Winn Feline Foundation) from seeing their booth at various cat shows. My mom bred and showed Persians and then Exotic Shorthairs. I learned the genetics of torti and calico cats early on, as those were her favorites. My sister gained an interest in breeding and showing silver tabby American Shorthair cats. I fell in love with their striking coat and eye colors. When she moved on, I started breeding and showing her cats under my own cattery name. I loved watching the judging for all the different breeds. Such variation.

When I went to college, I discovered a love of nutrition science centered on animals, and decided to specialize in this area. Kept finding classes I wanted to take, and decided that I wanted to do research. Ended up with a doctorate in poultry science specializing in nutrition. Animal work was fun, but lab work was my favorite. Biochemistry, nutritional biochemistry, vitamins, minerals. I did some work in human and rat nutrition research, but finally ended up in my perfect position: dog and cat nutrition and exercise research at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine. Feeding different types of diets and measuring energy usage via expired air (indirect calorimetry), blood work, fecal analyses, diet analyses. All the dogs and cats in our studies were privately owned, so came in only for their individual visits. As a researcher, I have been able to help draft grant applications and publications as well as present posters and talks on our research. Plus, I supervise and guide many undergraduate student assistants and graduate students and help them with their own research projects. I even got to study antioxidant activity in blood samples of many species without actually meeting them- rhinos, alligators, crocodiles, pigs, and horses, among others.  I also became Fear Free certified while learning gentle handling and training.

Eventually, I stopped breeding cats, though I did continue to show one neutered American Shorthair called MG. Sadly, he eventually developed lymphoma, but I learned that chemo for animals is different from chemo for humans. With humans, the goal is ‘cure’ while with animals, the goal is ‘quality of life’. MG underwent many rounds of low-dose chemotherapy for a few years and remained healthy. Eventually though, the chemo wasn’t helping much, and the side effects were more serious. He lived a few more months before he told me it was time to let go.  I read much literature about lymphoma and chemotherapy in animals, and I talked with other cat and dog people who were having to make decisions about possible treatments for cancers. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with others but always encourage others to do their own reading.

Over the years at UF, I had the pleasure of working with Dr Julie Levy and helping her get Operation Catnip of Gainesville, Inc up and running. I helped teach other volunteers the goals of the program including population control and improved health of community cats. I filled in at every position in the spay/neuter clinics except actual surgery (not a DVM). I maintained the records for each cat, managed the database, performed statistics analyses on the data, helped write some papers and posters, and did several different research projects with the data.  The last few years, as the program grew from monthly to multiple days/week clinics, I participated less over time. I still help out every now and then. Outstanding program. Cats and science, some of my favorite things.

Now, as I am nearing the end of my professional career, I have been looking for other ways to help support research and science for animals. Saw an announcement asking for volunteers for EveryCat Foundation to help spread the word about science and research and improving the lives of cats. While I no longer breed or show cats, I do still have a feline family and care about cats in general. Thus, I am here to help support cats and science and research and encourage others to do the same. And, as a bonus, I may get to go to cat shows again!

 

~Karen Scott, PhD
Dr. Scott is currently a Senior Biological Scientist in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida where she oversees ongoing nutritional studies and has contributed to multiple peer-reviewed papers. She is also a long-time volunteer with Operation Catnip of Gainesville.