When she graduated in 2000 with a concentration in Equine Medicine, she had no idea that 16 years later she would be the founder and CEO of a start-up company striving to fulfill the environmental enrichment needs of indoor cats. She notes, “It has been a long and winding road, and each step along the way has been a whole lot of fun.”
As a student, she spent most of her clinic time at New Bolton Center with Dean Richardson who she says she can still hear during stressful cases ranting “Anatomy, anatomy, anatomy!”, Jim Orsini and the Drs. Sweeney. Much to her surprise, she found herself enjoying her time at the Ryan Hospital in small animal medicine and behavior.
The pull to small animal medicine was strong. Her equine career lasted less than a year. With her Penn education in hand and virtually no practical experience, she was taken on by a terrific family practice of Penn grads in Delaware who were kind and patient and showed her the ropes. She considers herself lucky to still work with the sister/brother team of Courtney Manetti V’99 and Luke Jones V’05 in the practice their late father, Southard Jones V’71 started in 1978.
During these years, she continued her interest in behavior - specifically feline behavior. She has attended CE and studied the work of the great veterinary behaviorists, and noticed a common theme that feline environmental enrichment is key to wellness for the indoor cat. Unfortunately, she often struggled to advise my clients on quality products to buy to fill these needs and instead offered suggestions to home-make them instead.
In October 2014, she attended a particularly robust feline behavior CE at the ACVC in Atlantic City. On the drive back to Philadelphia, she was ruminating on the terrific environmental enrichment information that she was taught, and working out how she would make recommendations to her clients. Again, she was frustrated with the lack of easily available solutions to implement the strategies of this critical piece of feline care. Exactly then, as she crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge from NJ to PA, an idea was born. She would do it herself!
With a very able group of entrepreneurs, she founded The Feline Environmental Enrichment Design Company (FEED Co), and began working on her first project. As a student, she had been taught that indoor cats should hunt for their food, not eat from a bowl. This was confirmed in every behavior CE thereafter, and yet there was nothing available on the market to simulate the hunting experience, in the way nature intended, for the indoor cat. FEED Co’s first product, The NoBowl Feeding System, launched a Kickstarter campaign on March 10, 2016. With this cute, clean, easy to use system, indoor cats can gently transition from bowl feeding to indoor hunting, using the dry food that they are already eating. To learn more about the product visit www.NoBowlCat.com.
In addition to FEED Co, Dr. Bales is on a mission to bring the important information of feline behavior, wellness and environmental enrichment to cat owners everywhere. She has a blog at www.TheCatvocate.com, is a regular contributor to Catvington Post and Cat Talk Magazine, and was recently featured in the Huffington Post.
She is thrilled to be a new member of the Dean’s Alumni Council and can’t wait to see what the future has in store!