Gentle Leaders, Strong Practice
Submitted by Holley Truitt, Cat Friendly & Fear Free Certified Technician
Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, Austin, TX
As the Cat Friendly Practice® program celebrates its 10-year anniversary, our organization, Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, reflects on its involvement in the program since the very beginning. The journey to becoming a Cat Friendly Practice® started before the hospital even began. When asked about becoming a Cat Friendly Practice®, Dr. John Samon, owner of Star of Texas, contemplates the influence Dr. Roy Smith had on his career. The two worked together at a small animal practice in Austin, TX before Dr. Smith went on to open the Central Texas Cat Hospital and become the 2013 AAFP President. Dana Wile, hospital manager and first employee of Star of Texas, also had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Smith. She understood cats deserve their own standards, separate and equal to their canine counterparts. In her own words, “When establishing our practice, we knew cats could not be an afterthought.” In 2012, when the Cat Friendly Practice® (CFP) Program became available, it was obvious to Dana that our hospital would become Cat Friendly.
“When establishing our practice, we knew cats could not be an afterthought.”
Because our roots were influenced by cat lovers, becoming a CFP was seamless. Star of Texas had already been using Cat Friendly techniques such as offering treats during visits, letting cats come out of the carrier at their own pace, and gentle touch during exams. Since becoming a CFP, Star of Texas added a cat-only waiting area, cat-only exam room, and cat-only treatment area.
Through the years, Star of Texas has added team members who embrace and improve its cat culture. As the author of this article and in-house behavior counselor for Star of Texas, I too find myself reflecting on my mentors and contributions. Cat Friendly and Fear Free certified veterinarian, Dr. Julie Liu, taught me it's possible to practice veterinary medicine while honoring the depths of our compassion. She taught me that a pet’s mental health is equally as important as physical health. If you help one by harming the other, have you really helped at all? She also taught me the necessity for feline education, both to pet parents and colleagues. And most importantly, she kindled the consequential feeling that I have agency for betterment as a veterinary technician.
"...a pet’s mental health is equally as important as physical health."
Because of influences like Dr. Liu and Dana Wile, I have implemented my own feline-centric tips and tricks at Star of Texas. A small but helpful addition I’ve added to our feline exam room has been a hidey-hole made from a storage container with an opening cut into it. Incorporating this was inexpensive, and the removable top makes it easy to prep and clean. Soft blankets and calming pheromones are added to make it a safe and comfortable location. The addition I’m most proud of though is our Kitty Committee. This Committee is full of cat advocates that meet quarterly to discuss Cat Friendly improvements for our hospital and feline best practices. Our team members are also now encouraged to obtain the AAFP’s Cat Friendly Professional Certificate.
Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital wishes the Cat Friendly Practice® Program a happy 10-year anniversary! We are thankful to the pioneers of the American Association of Feline Practitioners in 1971; to our mentors along the way, like Dr. Roy Smith and Dr. Julie Liu; and to our current amazing staff of compassionate innovators who are the next generation of Cat Friendly Professionals.