"Cat Mastery" featured in Ohio State Alumni Magazine


-Cats in Control-

Tony Buffington, DVM, MS, PhD, is on a mission to improve the standard of living for cats and the people who love them.

Buffington, a professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, is recognized around the world by researchers and veterinarians alike for his work in linking everyday stressors to feline illnesses, including urinary tract disorders. He hopes to reach the much broader audience of cat owners through a new digital book and iTunes U course.

The digital book, "Cat Mastery", illustrates the fundamental components needed to create an indoor environment that keeps cats happy and, therefore, healthy. It offers interactive opportunities including quizzes, slide decks, videos and diagrams.

"Cat owners want to do the right thing, but there's a lot of misinformation on the internet," Buffington said. "What we hoped to do was to put in one place some guidelines and suggestions for a new standard of care in the home."

Buffington has spent the past 30 years studying cats. He and fellow researchers at Ohio State learned that bladder disorders and other serious health issues dissipate once cats are placed in an "enhanced environment" that more closely resembles their natural habitat, over which they have greater control.

"Cats are more removed from their natural environment than we are," Buffington said. "Which means that when cats are exposed to threatening situations in the home, their underlying physical vulnerabilities are exposed."

Cats may view other family pets, household appliances and even owners as potential predators. When exposed to such stress, weak organs sometime pay the price. Buffington and his colleagues suggest simple steps owners can take to enrich the lives of cats in their home, such as carefully considering where to put the litter box and providing places to perch and opportunities to "hunt."

Buffington's research with cats has led him to study how stress affects human suffering and contributes to illness. 

"It's about the balance of perception of control to perception of threat," he said. "As long as the brain believes it is more in control than threatened, things are okay. That goes for all mammalian species."


Story by Monica Demeglio, from the July - August issue of The Ohio State University Alumni Magazine.

Posted August 11, 2014