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Keuka College Alumna Dr. Terry Curtis is the Cat’s Meow

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Dr. Terry Curtis '80, left, receives the Keuka College Alumni Association's Professional Achievement Award from College President Amy Storey.

Jackson Galaxy (of the TV show My Cat from Hell fame) has nothing on Dr. Terry Curtis, a member of the Keuka College Class of 1980. Like the famous cat behaviorist, Dr. Curtis travels to people’s homes to play detective and help them understand why their beloved pet is displaying negative behavior. 

Her mission: to keep the furry, four-legged pets with their human guardians. She sees herself as the pets’ advocate, interpreter, and teacher. 

Helping pets and their human guardians stay together is one reason Dr. Curtis received this year’s Professional Achievement Award from the Keuka College Alumni Association. The award was presented during the annual Alumni Association breakfast, held during the College’s Green & Gold Celebration Weekend last month.

The award honors exceptional achievement based on professional recognition, public service, and publications/presentations of professional work, among other criteria.

Being a veterinarian was not part of Dr. Curtis’ original plan.

“I never really had a plan, but I knew that my time at Keuka College would prepare me for anything that I chose to do afterward,” says Dr. Curtis. “And it did. Keuka College was the soil where the seeds I already had within took root and grew. Blossomed. I have never been afraid that I'd never do well, never be enough, never succeed. Keuka fostered the fact that success was the only option—but not in a coercive or pressured way. It just was.”

When not in a client’s home, Dr. Curtis is teaching in other ways: educating veterinary students, providing continuing education to veterinarians, or speaking to community groups and shelter personnel. For Dr. Curtis, the goal is always the same—providing information about small animal behavior, busting myths, and offering alternatives to harsh, archaic beliefs and inhumane methods.

Thirteen years after graduating from Keuka College with a degree in biology, Dr. Curtis returned to school and earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, with honors, from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. A feline-only practitioner for three years, she earned a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and began her residency in veterinary behavior. 

A prolific writer, Dr. Curtis is the author of numerous articles, including book chapters in Veterinary Clinics of North America, the Sixth Edition of Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult, and Decoding Your Cat. She is also a member of the Editorial Review Board for Today’s Veterinary Practice magazine, and the Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, and serves on the Advisory Board for BlueCare. 

Dr. Curtis has also traveled across the country and internationally, sharing her expansive knowledge with audiences attending veterinary conferences in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Peru, Australia, and Mexico, as well as the Waltham Leading Veterinary Workshop in India. Medical associations from Massachusetts to Florida have benefitted from Dr. Curtis’ insights, as have those at colleges such as Cornell University, Iowa State University, and St. Matthew’s University on Grand Cayman Island.

In addition, Dr.  Curtis has worked with the Hemingway House cats in Key West, Fla., and has appeared on ABC’s Nightline to discuss feline behavior, and NBC’s Today Show to talk about fears and phobias in dogs. 

After 20 years of analyzing cats and their behavior, Dr. Curtis’ mission remains the same—to educate and explain, to think outside the box and problem-solve, so that the human-animal bond remains strong.

“Being a veterinarian has been a wonderful profession, and I am grateful to be where I am and doing what I do every single day,” says Dr. Curtis. “It comes with the knowledge that I can—and do—make a difference. And Keuka College helped me do it all.”

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