Every trip I take is adventure even if the adventure has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of the trip. That’s intentional for me. While I’m visiting a destination, I want to walk away with a story, not just a recap. And this story begins in New York City.
Once again, I was invited to the Nestle Purina Better With Pets Summit held in New York City on November 3rd. I was lucky enough to attend last year’s summit where the theme was innovation and I was more than impressed (you can read all about my experience at that summit here). Since that time, I’ve visited St. Louis and toured some of Purina’s headquarters. I learned that Purina is about more than pet food; it’s about pet care.
The majority of Purina’s employees are also pet owners. They are people like me who love their cats and dogs, are lucky enough to bring them to work if they choose, and vested in helping them live long and happy lives. And it shows. Virtually every bio photo I’ve seen of a Purina team member includes one of their pets, which I love. I think the type of pet you own says something about you.
When I met my husband, he was the proud owner of two small dogs and I was a single girl living in an apartment with my cat. Now there’s a story just waiting to be told. Fifteen years later, we still have two small dogs (different dogs) and now have two cats (different cats). It took my husband a while to figure cats out. He’s still learning. For me, I learned that small dogs are just as awesome as big dogs (which I grew up with) except they’re small and usually live longer.
We want our pets to live a long time. After having many senior pets and nursing them until the end of their life, it’s nice to have younger pets that we hope will be around for a long time. And for that to happen, it’s important to focus on emotional well-being, the theme of this year’s summit.
But whose well-being? Cats? Yes. Dogs? Yes. Various other pets? Yes. And even your emotional well-being which is an important part of why many of us have pets in the first place.
The format this year was a little different. Instead of the TED-type talks last year, the session was more conversational with the morning focusing on three different panels all covering various aspects of emotional wellness of pets and the people who love them.
Panel #1: An Evolving Relationship with Cats?
Cats – you either love ’em or you hate ’em, am I right? I’ve finally figured out that that perception is based on your experience with cats. They can be downright mean. They can also be warm and cuddly. Finding the right cat for the right person makes all the difference. But one thing most people can agree on is that cats are funny with personalities all their own, and we can probably thank the internet’s obsession with cats for that.
Did you know that cats comprise the largest pet population? Did you know that 31% of millennials own cats? That’s the largest percentage since the baby boomers. Maybe it means cats are finally coming into their own, with help from people like Christina Ha who founded Meow Parlour. Meow Parlour is a calm environment that allows cats to play in a situation that feels more like home than a cage.
When cats are relaxed and people have a chance to interact with them more naturally, people start to get them. In the afternoon, we had a chance to experience that directly with the Cat Environment, part of the immersion experience in the afternoon.
Spending time in the cat environment reminded me that introverts tend to gravitate towards cats while extroverts tend to be dog owners. I swing both ways but I get cats. Too bad I wore black pants that day because they “got” me too!
Panel #2: Stress, Our Pets, and Us
As I like to say… Pets and Stress – they cause it, they relieve it. Because who hasn’t had that moment where you wonder what in the world you were thinking getting a pet followed very closely by how in the world you could have ever lived without one?
It’s a known fact that they can have a calming effect in our lives but how can we improve their well-being? Turns out there are a lot of ways.
Let’s start with adoptable cats because there are a lot of them. Have you ever been to a shelter and seen cats in stacked cages? Placing cats in the highest cages when up for adoption changes their perception of surroundings. They feel less stress and their personality can shine through.
Better yet? Put pets up for adoption in a more calming, natural environment.
And in the experiential space, Purina created an interactive exhibit that gave us tips on how to create a less stressed environment at home for our pets.
And you know what one of the biggest stressors is for our pets? BOREDOM! Just like us, they get bored and may even engage in destructive behaviors as a result. I’m no crafty chick but I loved some of the simple ideas for keeping both dogs and cats stimulated with a reward at the end of their play!
If only I could stay stimulated with a few treats and some a little pegboard.
Panel #3: Raising Pets and Kids
Maybe it was because I was raised with pets (a lot of pets) or that I’m raising my son with pets (kind of a lot of pets) that this was my favorite topic.
Talk about diversity! The women on this panel shared amazing stories of how dogs create a calming environment for children who need it most – those that move frequently due to the military, autistic kids, and even abused children. These children see pets as a form of stability in their otherwise topsy turvy world. And they see them as a trusted companion or even a calming force.
It’s something I experienced as a child (in a crowded house, my German Shepherd Buffy was “the only one who really understood me”) and it’s something that’s providing relief to military vets who experience PTSD. In the immersion area, I was able to witness a therapy dog being trained to help rouse someone who might be experiencing traumatic nightmares.
It was an amazing day of learning and experiencing and just communing with pet people. MY people. And luckily MY people understood how much I fawned over the Instagram pet celebrities Tuna, an adorable chiweenie, and Chloe Kardoggian, an equally adorable chihuahua.
Now it’s your turn. Is your life Better With Pets? I’d love for you to share your warm, cuddly stories and experiences!
This post is sponsored by Purina who also provided travel and accommodations for me to attend this amazing event. All opinions are my own!