It’s amazing how quickly ten years can pass, and we can’t believe that it’s already been a decade since the veterinary division of International Cat Care changed its name from the European Society of Feline Medicine (ESFM) to the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) in April of 2010.
This change wasn’t just semantic, it represented an expansion of focus that allowed us to reach as many cat professionals worldwide as possible and consequently help even more cats, which is the overarching goal of the charity.
Whilst these ten years might have flown by, we’ve done a huge amount in them and seen a huge increase of interest internationally. Below we’ll look at how it all began and how the work of ISFM has spread across the world since 2010.
The very beginning
ESFM was formed by the charity, then called the Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB), in 1996 as a focus for veterinarians with a particular interest in cats across Europe. Its aims from the outset were to:
- Promote feline health and welfare
- Provide a forum for the dissemination of information and knowledge about developments in feline medicine
- Publish a dedicated journal
- Form ties with other similar organisations
In 1999 the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS) was launched as a peer-reviewed publication aimed at practitioners and researchers interested in clinical veterinary healthcare and the welfare of domestic cats, and the official Journal of ISFM.
JFMS quickly grew in prominence and reputation, and in 2002 the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) also adopted it as their official journal, and this marked the beginning of a close collaboration between the two organisations for the benefit of cats around the world.
In 2009 it became a monthly title, alternating ‘Classic’ issues, which feature clinical research papers, and ‘Clinical Practice’ issues, featuring authoritative review articles and expert-panel best practice guidelines. Two distinct, but complementary formats under one feline title – truly an innovation.
In 2002 ESFM held its first European congress in Stockholm. This event was very well received and the society continued to earn a reputation for excellence in subsequent years. Thousands of delegates have attended these events over the years and there are some that have attended almost every one without fail.
In its first ten years, ESFM met and surpassed all of its early aims and continued to innovate, creating distance learning courses and pushing feline medicine forward.
In April 2010, the name was changed from ESFM to ISFM to represent the growth of the organisation and its aims were updated to represent this:
- Provide a worldwide resource for veterinarians on all aspects of feline health and wellbeing
- Provide resources to enable practices to develop more ‘cat friendly’ approaches
- Provide information and resources that practitioners can use with clients both in and beyond the consulting room
- Continue publishing and developing JFMS
- Develop international guidelines and policies on important and relevant feline issues
- Provide conferences and other ‘continuing professional development’ (CPD) opportunities on an international scale
- Develop an internationally recognised, practitioner-orientated, postgraduate feline veterinary qualification
- Provide information and resources for veterinary nurses/technicians on feline health and welfare
- Collaborate with veterinary cat groups and other similar organisations worldwide, where possible through recognised partnerships, and to share information, expertise and knowledge of ‘best practice’
The next ten years
Although the change from the European Society of Feline Medicine to the International Society of Feline Medicine was organic, this concerted international focus saw an explosion of interest in the society’s work worldwide.
Year on year JFMS has seen an increase in online visitors to the journal from a greater number of countries.
- In 2013, 123,785 individuals visited JFMS online from 182 countries
- In 2015, 182,500 people visited JFMS online from 191 countries
- In 2019 this jumped to 311,326 visitors from 205 countries. That same year the journal celebrated its 20th anniversary, and some notable milestones along the way are shown in the timeline below.
One of the key milestones – and in response to the growing number of submissions to JFMS, and increasing pressure on its page budget – ISFM and its publishing partners, AAFP and SAGE, launched JFMS Open Reports in 2015 as an open access, online-only sister journal. It has quickly gained a reputation for publishing high-quality case reports, short case series and short communications, accessible to all in full.
The events and congresses have gone from strength to strength, with ISFM events becoming a benchmark for excellence in CPD, which is complemented by an excellent social programme that allows delegates to relax and socialise in a friendly environment. An Asia-Pacific congress was launched in 2012 and has become a staple of ISFM’s events programme.
ISFM hasn’t just seen an expansion of its previous component parts, there have been some important new programmes that have also spread nationwide since their inception.
In 2012 the Cat Friendly Clinic programme was launched. By recognising the unique needs of cats, the programme helps to address the stress of veterinary visits by allowing cat owners to find their nearest Cat Friendly veterinary clinic, and setting standards that veterinarians can follow to gain Cat Friendly Clinic status. The development of Cat Friendly Clinics has mirrored that of JFMS, ISFM’s flagship veterinary journal, with the programme spreading further around the world year on year.
- In 2012, 50 clinics were accredited in 4 counties
- In 2016, 213 new clinics were accredited in 18 countries
- In 2019, 311 new clinics were accredited in 26 countries
As of the end of March 2020, ISFM have accredicted 1,692 Cat Friendly Clinics. This huge increase in eight years represents more than one new clinic being accredited every other day.
In the continuing collaboration with the AAFP, the Cat Friendly Clinic programme was licensed to them for their use in North and South America as Cat Friendly Practice, and they now have 1,224 accredited practices. If we add those of ISFM and the AAFP together, there are a total of 2,916 worldwide.
In 2018 ISFM launched the Cat Care for Life programme in partnership with IDEXX, Royal Canin and Boehringer Ingelheim, aimed at both cat owners and veterinary clinics. It enables owners to understand the different life stages of their cat and the health checks recommended for each one; it also includes a plethora of information and advice. There are also resources that can be printed out and used to keep a record of what happened at each veterinary visit and the relevant health information that gives an invaluable picture of overall health. For veterinary clinics, this programme that has been created from recommendations by international experts and organisations and allows for the best possible care for cats from an independent and respected source.
One of the principal aims of ISFM was to collaborate with similar organisations worldwide, and through the decade ISFM has partnered with 21 feline-focused veterinary organisations from 19 countries. Together, this ‘national partner’ network represents an international alliance with a shared goal of improving cat welfare.
As the evolution of ISFM has shown, the organisation is always looking forward, and this is reflected in the work that it’s doing now.
CPD that will enhance the wellbeing of cats continues to be an important focus; so too is reaching as many audiences and stakeholders as possible. Recently, as part of the Cat Friendly Clinic programme, two popular courses for veterinary receptionists and veterinary professionals have been developed that include modules on the origins of cats, feline behaviour and on how the practice can be made as cat friendly as possible.
Details of both courses can be found by following the links below.
For the duration of the current COVID-19 crisis, ISFM has made a number of webinars free for veterinary surgeons and nurses to access. Not only does this help to keep up to date with CPD, it provides access to lots of useful information from experts on issues that are likely to be encountered in practice.
There are more than 40 webinars available with a variety of topics, such as:
- Anaesthesia and Analgesia
- Emergency and Critical Care
- Feline Medicine
- And many more
More information, including how to register for access, can be found on the webpage linked below.
The COVID-19 outbreak has unfortunately meant the cancellation of the 2020 ISFM European Congress in Rhodes, but the events team is working hard to provide a silver lining – and will be running an ISFM International Feline Congress as a virtual conference instead. This will take place on the 8th-10th of August 2020 to coincide with International Cat Day.
The speakers that would have given talks at Rhodes will record their lectures instead, and our partners will also record their symposia, bringing around 30 hours of CPD. A 3 day nurse programme is also being added. Alongisde this, there will be the opportunity for virtual discussion. These talks will be available on-demand from the 8th of August and there will be a 3-day programme of live events with speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. As more details become available, they will be listed on the events page linked below.
These are just a few examples of how ISFM is continuing to innovate and adapt to changing circumstances so that it can impact the greatest number of cats worldwide. Before we know it, we’ll be looking back on another decade of international success.