A Cat Friendly Practice® and Proud of It!
Submitted by Robin Downing, DVM, MS, Doctor of Bioethics, DAAPM, DACVSMR
Windsor Veterinary Clinic PC, Windsor, CO
We were delighted to learn of the Cat Friendly Practice® initiative by the AAFP. My first practice was a house call practice in which I learned how to work with cats versus struggling against them to provide veterinary care.
I brought my enthusiasm for cats from the living room to the exam room, so we already enjoyed good success in working with our feline patients when the Cat Friendly Practice® standards were introduced. The standards formalized and validated what we were already doing, but, more importantly, the standards expanded our thinking about how to create a cooperative care environment for cats, and fine-tuned our approach to our feline patients.
All of our health care team loves cats! Some specific ways in which the Cat Friendly Practice® standards have improved our cat care include:
- Using “soft” light rather than our full-spectrum LED ceiling fixtures.
Stressed cats tend to have dilated pupils and bright light can be painful for them.
- Establishing a “cats only” examination room. We have a litter box in a place that almost every single cat goes into either to take a “dust bath” or to use as a bathroom. We use iCalm Cat® audio on an endless loop and Feliway® diffusers in the room with pheromones.
- Using RescueTM products for cleaning to prevent “nose blindness.”
- Using what we call “hot yoga blankets” on our baby scale and exam table. We keep fluffy infant blankets sprayed with Feliway® in a countertop towel warmer just outside the examination rooms and carry two with us as we enter the room to start the examination appointment. The cats seem to appreciate this detail!
- Using pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVPs) liberally helps cats not escalate into fear, anxiety, and stress.
Overall, being a Cat Friendly Practice® makes it more fun to work with our feline patients.
Cat caregivers have been thrilled with our commitment to being a Cat Friendly Practice®. Nearly every day a cat client comments on how different their and their cat’s experience is in our practice versus their previous veterinary experiences. They witness their cats looking out the window in our cats-only exam room, prancing around the room chin-marking the chair legs, and asking for attention from my veterinary nurse or me. They can barely believe their eyes! Consequently, we have no problem scheduling our feline patients at least twice a year, and some cats every 2-3 months (e.g., cats with chronic pain).
It is important to understand that a veterinary practice does not need to be feline-only to be a Cat Friendly Practice®. We remain a “mixed” practice - we still see dogs! But we have dramatically expanded our feline patient population as a result of qualifying as a Cat Friendly Practice®. Any practice considering this designation should recognize that embracing Cat Friendly is a great way to accomplish several important things:
- Growing your patient base by serving a chronically underserved pet population.
- Connecting with and building long-lasting relationships with cat caregivers.
- Enhancing safety in the examination room. Comfortable cats are cooperative cats and that decreases the risk for injury.
- Increasing and improving job satisfaction for all members of the veterinary health care team.
We have our Cat Friendly Practice® designation displayed on our practice websites. We also recognize that cat caregivers know others with cats, so we are bold about asking for online reviews and asking our clients to talk about us to their friends and family. Everyone who enters our practice goes home with a Cat Friendly Practice® brochure as well.