During the years I worked in veterinary hospitals, I always had an up close and personal knowledge of the vets who worked on my cats, from their medical skills and proficiency to their dedication and “bedside manner.” I was fortunate that most of the vets I worked with practiced cutting edge medicine, provided compassionate care for their furry patients and their humans, loved their work, and were always learning and growing in their fields. And if that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have continued to work with them.
Unfortunately, not all veterinarians live up to those standards – and for what it’s worth, I consider those minimum standards of care. Next to you, your cat’s vet is probably the most important person in your cat’s life. Continue Reading
While cats outnumber dogs as pets (according to the latest statistics from the American Pet Products Association, there are 78.2 million households that own dogs versus 86.4 million that own cats), pets receive significantly less veterinary care than dogs. Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.” According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.”
Additionally, many cat owners cite the difficulty of getting the cat into a carrier, driving the cat to the clinic, and dealing with a scared or stressed cat at the clinic as reasons for fewer visits. The goal of the feline-friendly handling guidelines is to reduce these barriers by helping cat owners understand feline behavior, preparing the cat and the client for the vet visit, creating a cat-friendly environment at the veterinary practice, and training veterinary staff on how to meet the unique needs of their feline patients.
The guidelines suggest that by understanding the unique social and behavioral characteristics of cats, and by recognizing early signs of fear, vet visits can be made less stressful for both cat and owner. Recommendations include the following:
• Rehearse trips to the veterinary practice by using positive reinforcement (treats)
• Rehearse clinical exams at home by getting cats used to having their paws, ears and mouth handled
• Get cats used to carriers
• Locate the cat well before the scheduled visit to the vet clinic
• Bring items that carry a familiar scent
• Notify the veterinary team in advance if the cat is easily stressed.
For veterinary practices, the guidelines offer suggestions on how to make the hospital more cat-friendly:
minimize wait times
schedule cat appointments during quieter times of the day, or
schedule dog and cat appointments at different times
dedicate an exam room to cats only
provide a cat only ward for cats who need to be hospitalized.
The guidelines go into great detail on how to interact with cats in the practice. The mantra “go slow to go fast” applies in almost every interaction with cats, from getting the cat out of the carrier to minimizing the stress of medical procedures. Veterinary staff should be trained to recognize and respond to cat signals, especially feline body language. Restraint should be minimal whenever possible. I was particularly delighted to see that the panel does not condone lifting the cat or suspending its body weight with a scruffing technique.
The guidelines offer recommendations for working with fearful or aggressive cats, ranging from pre-visit techniques that may include medication to using restraint methods, including chemical restraint, if required, stressing the need to be sensitive to each individual cat’s response.
A section on how to help cat owners cope with cats returning home from their vet visit and possibly upsetting other resident cats, and a comprehensive resource section, rounds out the guidelines. You can read the complete guidelines here.
You just had a lovely breakfast served by your devoted human. You’ve settled in for your morning nap in the fist sunny spot of the day, and are dreaming of chasing mice and being revered as a Goddess by all humans. Life is good. Suddenly, your favorite human wakes you up out of your deep sleep, and gives you a hug. Okay, not something you really need to have right now, but you love your human, so you tolerate it. But wait – what is happening? All of a sudden, your formerly loving human turns on you! You’re shoved into a small container, you’re bounced around, and next thing you know, you’re in a loud, rumbling very small room that actually moves!
You know immediately where this is headed. Yup – it’s your bi-annual visit to the vet’s office.
For most cats, going to the vet’s is stressful, and for some cats, it’s so upsetting that they turn into snarling, hissing, scratching, biting little or not so little terrors. Going to a veterinary clinic where the doctors and staff understand cats can go a long way towards making the experience less stressful. What should you look for to determine whether a veterinary clinic is feline-friendly?
Ideally, look for a feline-only practice. You will find more and more of these practices in large, metropolitan areas, and even in some smaller, rural areas. If this is not an option where you are, look for the following:
Does the practice have separate cat and dog waiting areas? Most cats, especially cats who don’t live with dogs, hate the noise and smell of dogs and do much better if they dont’ have to deal with a dog’s face in front of their carrier while waiting for the dreaded exam.
Does the practice have cat themed decorations as well as dog themed ones? This can be an indicator of which species a practice prefers to deal with.
Does the clinic have separate exam rooms for cats? Since most cats don’t like to smell dogs, this can help keep cats calmer.
Do the doctor and the veterinary staff speak calmly and move slowly when introducing themselves to you and your cat?
Do the doctor and staff take their time with your cat? Your cat has just been through the stress of a car ride and possibly a short wait in a crowded waiting room. Having a doctor or staff member come at him with a thermometer, stethoscope and needles without first giving the cat a little time to get used to the environment will not make the exam go smoothly. Veterinary staff who know and like cats know this and will act accordingly.
Do the doctor and staff acknowledge your cat’s anxiety, or do they make disparaging remarks?
While cats need to be handled different than dogs, restraining a fractious cats with unnecessary roughness is never okay.
These are just some of the things to look for when you’re choosing a vet for your cat. Be your cat’s advocate, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up if you don’t like how your cat is being handled.