Although cats are the most popular pets in the United States (there are roughly 86 million pet cats compared to about 75 million pet dogs), they visit the veterinarian far less frequently than dogs. Anyone who has ever owned a cat is probably not surprised by this fact; between getting kitty into the carrier, the harrowing car ride, and the antics on the examining table, taking a cat to the vet is typically quite an ordeal.
Because of this discrepancy in care, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has initiated the Cat Friendly Practice program for veterinary clinics and hospitals, designed to improve access to high quality health care for the feline population.
Why is a Cat Friendly Practice so Important?
Cats have unique needs when it comes to visiting the veterinarian’s office. Typically, they:
- Don’t travel well
- Don’t feel safe when away from their home turf
- Are highly susceptible to stress and anxiety
- Are very sensitive to unusual sights, sounds, and smells
- Have unique medical requirements
- Should be handled gently
By taking the extra steps required to meet those needs, a clinic can create a much more calming environment that is geared toward reducing the stress of feline patients as much as possible.
Becoming Cat Friendly
In order to earn the AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice designation, a clinic must meet the following criteria:
- Creation of a cat-only waiting room/area, which curtails anxiety by reducing or eliminating unfamiliar smells, noises, and close proximity to other pets
- All areas of the clinic that may be visited by cats have been assessed for appropriate equipment, tools, and procedures
- Staff is trained in the specific needs of felines, including proper feline handling techniques
- Doctors and technicians are trained to recognize early warning signs of fear or anxiety in subtle facial or behavioral cues and how to adapt as needed
- Ability to develop a plan for your cat based on his or her specific needs and personality, and to incorporate you as a valuable member of your cat’s wellness team with education on proper home care
58% of cat owners say that their cat hates going to the veterinarian and 38% report feelings of stress just from thinking about bringing their cat in for an exam. These sobering statistics are why we believe it’s so important to work toward adopting the Cat Friendly Practice principles at our clinic.
We love all of our feline patients here at Westlake Animal Hospital, and are dedicated to making sure that each and every cat experiences the least amount of stress possible while they are here.