Q & A with Dr. Marty Becker
Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian”, joined us at CatCon for the very first time this year. He was the resident veterinary contributor on “Good Morning America” for 17 years, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the American Humane Association as well as its Chief Veterinary Correspondent. He has written 25 books that have sold almost 8 million copies, including three New York Times best-sellers.
He is also the founder of Fear Free, an initiative to “take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified’” and get pets back for veterinary visits by promoting a considerate approach and gentle control techniques used in calming environments.
CatCon: Can you tell us about how and why you founded Fear Free?
Dr. Becker: Fear Free was born when I heard famed veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall tell a veterinary conference audience, “Fear is the worst thing a social species can experience and it causes permanent damage to the brain.”
She went on to talk about signs of anxiety and fear in dogs, and I realized I only recognized about half of them. Worse, even of those I had recognized, seeing them hadn’t caused me to change the way I was acting toward frightened pets during my decades of practice.
I had to face the truth: Although I had the best of intentions, mostly just wanting to get my patients the medical care they needed as quickly as possible so they could leave my hospital, I had actually been causing repeated physiological damage to my previous patients. Before I left Dr. Overall’s lecture room that day, my heart, mind, and focus were changed. The Fear Free dream was born.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I can honestly say I don’t have a typical day! In the last few years I’ve spent as many as 300 days on the road!
You’ve written 25 books, including the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul. What’s one bit of information or piece of advice from your books that you want all your readers to take to heart?
This answer has changed over the years, but today I’ll say this: Ask yourself, is my pet happy? So many of our pets lead lives of boredom and “permanent retirement,” not getting enough exercise, mental stimulation, fresh air, or sunshine. Take the time to really look at your pet’s emotional health!
As pet parents, we’re really looking forward to your seminar! What will CatCon guests learn there?
It’s easy to think that our pets’ happiness is a lesser or trivial worry compared to their physical health, but the two are inseparable. Cats in particular are prone to stress-related illnesses, and can also develop severe behavior problems when their emotional needs aren’t met. From how we feed them to what their daily lives are like, their happiness is in our hands. I’m going to explain how to ensure your cat has a happy, healthy, full life instead of one spent as a furry sofa cushion.
What would CatCon fans be surprised to know about you?
My wife and I have always adopted cats, but we chose those who no one else wanted – the ferals, the unfriendlies, those who for whatever reason couldn’t or wouldn’t live as house pets. We gave them a home in our barn (heated in the winter, of course!), veterinary care, and as much TLC as they wanted (which was sometimes more than you’d suspect). But year before last we fell in love with a litter of kittens who came into our local shelter and from there to the vet hospital to be cared for. Our home is now ruled by our very first house cat, Talley!
What are you most looking forward to at CatCon?
Spending time with so many passionate cat lovers!
CatCon 2020 is taking place August 29th & 30th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. TICKETS ON SALE SPRING 2020.
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