Face to Face: Cindy Karsten, shelter veterinarian

Cindy Karsten2It’s not uncommon to miss the company of animals when travelling. But a severe case of “dogsickness” changed the career direction of forest scientist Cynthia (Cindy) Karsten.

“I went to work in Montana with the AmeriCorps program Montana Conservation Corps, travelled a lot with the job and couldn’t have a dog,” she said. “Thus I started volunteering at the local shelter”.

“My first impression was that it seemed broken – animals come in, if they aren’t reclaimed or adopted, they’re euthanised – simply because they ended up in the shelter. This sparked my interest in shelters.”

Karsten and her partner (now husband) moved to Alaska to work as bike guides, but she continued to be involved with homeless animals.

“I decided to go to vet school – so after three years we moved to Anchorage so that I could take some classes that I needed to apply to vet school.”

Karsten spent the next two years working at a veterinary specialist clinic while volunteering with a rescue group. In 2006, she was accepted into veterinary school in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I had thought that I would go to vet school and then would work in a shelter. However, Sandra Newbury, who was with UC Davis at the time, was living in Madison and working with vet students so opened my eyes to the possibilities in terms of working with shelters.”

Fast forward almost a decade and Cindy Karsten, DVM, is one of a growing number of veterinarians specialising in Shelter Medicine. In June 2014, the American Veterinary Medical Association granted provisional recognition to the Shelter Medicine Practice specialty within the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Continue reading Face to Face: Cindy Karsten, shelter veterinarian

A cat’s game of hide and seek

Hiding may play an important role in relaxing cats according to University of Queensland honours student Mark Owens.

Working in the Centre of Animal Welfare and Ethics , Owens’ project focuses on the behaviour and welfare of domestic cats in shelters.

“Welfare is a major issue in many countries for animals that are kept in cages, shelters and captive environments like zoos,” he said.

The study looks at cats’ behaviours and emotions, which indicate if they are feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated or content and examines 37 cats over seven days.

Half the cats Owens is observing are provided with a hiding box, and the remaining cats are in open view.

“A big part of my research is whether hiding provides a certain type of enrichment for cats in stressful situations,” Owens said.

“Unfortunately I am not sitting in a room playing and watching cats, I have pre-recorded the cats for 24 hours over seven days, and have just finished coding their behaviours on the videos,” he said.

A cat’s position in the cage, its posture and certain escape behaviours are all observations that contribute to identifying their emotions, stress levels and ability to adapt to their environment. Continue reading A cat’s game of hide and seek