vet visit

Cat Friendly Handling: Your Cat Deserves a Positive Experience at the Veterinary Clinic

How to Make the Cat Carrier Attractive to Your Cat

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This post is sponsored by Sleepyod

While the cat carrier may not be your cat’s favorite place, it is an important part of your cat’s life, and it can be vital in an emergency.  And it’s up to you to convince your cat that spending time in the carrier feels good. Unfortunately, for most cats, the only time they’re in a carrier is when they have to go to the veterinarian, so the association with carriers is often a negative and stressful one. Continue Reading

AAFP rolls out Cat Friendly Practice Initiative

cat friendly practice

Going to the vet’s could soon become a little less stressful for cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners unveiled its “Cat Friendly Practice” initiative last week at the North American Veterinary Conference in Florida.

According to Veterinary Practice News, the initiative provides strategies to help practices become more accommodating to the needs of cats and certifies practices as “Cat Friendly Practices.” The AAFP launched the program in response to declining clinic visits by cat owners and intends to help clinics increase veterinary visits for felines and boost the level of healthcare cats receive.

Studies show the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year. For example, a recent industry survey revealed that compared with dogs, almost three times as many cats hadn’t received veterinary care in the past year.Continue Reading

Take Your Cat to the Vet Week Contest: Share your stories

cat vet stethoscope veterinary exam

August 22 through August 28, 2011 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week. Created by the makers of Feline Pine in 2009, National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week is sponsored by Petfinder.com this year. The purpose of this campaign is to remind cat parents to take their cats to the vet for regular physical exams.

Why is there a need for this campaign? According to statistics, cats are substantially underserved when it comes to veterinary care.  Even though cat owners consider their cats just as much members of the family as dog owners do, a 2006 study showed that dogs were taken to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats, averaging 2.3 times a year, compared with 1.1 times a year for cats, and significantly more dogs (58%) than cats (28%) were seen by a veterinarian one or more times a year.  Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.”   According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), Feline Pine’s in house veterinarian, “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.  Cats also don’t show disease well. We can have cats who look normal but they are covering up a serious illness.”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics and cats with known medical conditions. I recommend bi-annual exams for cats age 7 and older. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, and annual or bi-annual exams are the best way to detect problems early. Once a cat shows symptoms, treatment may be much more extensive, not as effective, and will also cost more.

One barrier to regular vet visits for many cat parents is the fact that vet visits can be very stressful for cats. During National Take Your Cat to the Vet, Petfinder.com will provide tips for making vet visits easier for cats and for getting the most out of your visit. Be sure to like Petfinder’s Facebook page so you don’t miss any of their tips.

 Vet Confidential pet health

We’re holding a contest during National Take Your Cat to the Vet week to help spread the word about this important campaign. Share a story of your cat’s vet visit in a comment. Allegra, Ruby and I will judge the entries, and the best story will win a copy of Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health by Louise Murray, DVM. Contest ends August 29. For an additional chance to win, share this contest on Facebook or Twitter, and post the link in a separate comment.

Related reading:

Is your vet cat-friendly?

How to make your cat’s trip to the vet less stressful

Can classical music lead to better veterinary care for you cat?

Your cat may not be as old as you think

Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines to Make Vet Visits Easier for Cats

cat with stethoscope The Conscious Cat

Vet visits for cats should become a little easier in the future, thanks to the new Feline Friendly Handling Guidelines just released by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine.

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.

Photo: dreamstime.com

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Allegra’s World: Allegra Goes to the Vet’s

Since so much has happened around here in just the last week, Mom is letting me write here again so soon!  Yay!!!

Last Friday, there was a lot of commotion around our house.  Mom was moving some furniture around, and then she brought this big box up from the basement.  It was huge!  Much bigger than me!  It was a little scary, actually.  Then she took all these green things out of the box.  They looked like the branches on the tree right outside our window.  There were so many of them, I really felt outnumbered, so I did what any self-respecting cat would do:  I puffed myself up and hissed at them.  When that didn’t seem to bother them, I attacked!  But they just laid there, not doing much of anything, so I got bored and went to check out what Mom was doing.  She had put a little table in one corner of our living room, and it was covered with a red cloth that went all the way down to the floor.  Now this was interesting!  I went to investigate, and crawled under the table.  It was like my own private tent!  Very fun.   So I stayed under there for a while.

When I came out, the branches were no longer on the living room floor, but there was a tree on top of the little table.  Huh.  How’d that happen?  My Mom can make magic!  Then all of a sudden, there were all these twinkly lights on the tree.  More magic!  Then Mom hung things from it.  Some looked like little cats made out of wood, and glass, and plastic.  Interesting.  But I liked the little tent under the tree so much, I didn’t even bother to check out the tree all that much.  I sort of get a sense that Mom likes it that way, so I’m going to try and be a good girl.  But it is rather interesting…..hmm….  If I could just maybe bat at some of the little cats hanging from the tree…I wonder what would happen….

But that’s not all.  There was more excitement around here.  On Monday, I had just settled in for a nice long nap on my sunny window perch, when Mom gently woke me up, and picked me up.  She never does that, she always leaves me alone when I sleep, so I wasn’t sure what that was all about.  Next thing I know, I’m inside this big pink bag!  Hello!  How’d that happen?  Now, the pink bag had been sitting in our family room for a while, and I even nap in it sometimes, but this time, Mom zipped up the front, and I was kind of stuck in there.  Very odd.  I wasn’t sure what to think.

You know how I told you last time that when Mom leaves the house, she always takes a purple bag with her?  Well, this time she left the house with the pink bag, and me in it!  What was going on?  The only time I’d ever been outside the house was when Mom picked me up from the animal hospital where I lived for a while to bring me home.  Uh oh.  Animal hospital?

Yup.  Sure enough, after a short time in the car (I remembered the car from when Mom brought me home.  It was a little scary when it first started moving, but then, it was okay), Mom carried me into – oh yes, I remembered this place!  I remembered the smells, but I also remembered that the people there were really nice to me, so I started to get kind of curious about what this might be about.  A few minutes later, Mom unzipped the front of the bag.   I wasn’t sure about coming out, so Mom reached in and pulled me out.  I was a little scared, and I think Mom could tell, because she hugged me and held me close, and that felt really good.  Then a woman came in the room, and she petted me and told me I was beautiful.   Then she took out this weird looking stick thing and asked whether she could take my temperature.  I don’t know what this temperature is, but the woman was really nice, so I figured it would be okay.  Yikes!!!  It so was not okay!!!  I won’t tell you where she put that stick thing, but I will tell you that I didn’t know that woman nearly well enough to let her do that to me!

A short while later, another woman came into the room.  She was really nice, too.  She even took some treats out of her pocket and offered them to me, but after the incident with the stick thing, I wasn’t going to trust anyone there!  God knows what they were going to do next!   After talking to me softly and petting me, the second woman looked into mouth.  Hello?  What did she do that for?  Then she put her hands all over me and squeezed in places that shouldn’t be squeezed if you ask me, but then, nobody asked me!  Then she took this round disk thing and put it on my chest.  It was all very strange, but none of it hurt, so I didn’t put up too much of a fuss – but believe me, I thought about it!

The next part was so not fun!  One of the women held me down, while the other one came at me with something really sharp and poked a hole in my leg with it.  It hurt!  And I started bleeding!  I got really scared.  You’d think they would have panicked, too, but instead of doing something to stop the bleeding, the woman  collected my blood in this tube thing!   What was up with that?  Finally, after what seemed like forever, the woman pulled the sharp thing out of my leg.  What a relief!  Surely, they couldn’t possibly do anything else to me, right?  But oh, no!  Next, she came at me with another sharp thing, and she  stuck it in my hip!  Okay, enough was enough.  I whipped my head around, ready to show them with my sharp little teeth that the woman had admired earlier just what I thought of the way they were treating me!  But they were quicker than I was (which is pretty darn impressive, if you ask me, because I’m fast!).    Thankfully, just when I was getting really mad, the pink bag reappeared, and I ran into it.  I figured they wouldn’t drag me out a second time, and I was right.

Mom says what happened was my annual check up.  It’s to make sure that I’m healthy.  Whatever!  I don’t care how nice the people there were to me, this is not a place I want to have to go back to more than once a year (no offense, nice people).

So that’s all the excitement from me.  I think I’ll go take a nice long tap in my special tent now.

Is Your Vet Cat-Friendly?

kitten at vet

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.