When it comes to cats, opinions tend to run hot and cold. At one end of the spectrum are the feline fans who find them to be beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent, independent and easy to care for. At the other end, you find people with cattitude. To these folks, cats are elusive and hard to read and sometimes even difficult and sneaky. How can one animal engender diametrically opposed feelings? Chalk it up to misperceptions, bias, and misinformation.
To better serve feline patients, a good starting point is to acknowledge that cats have unique dispositions and special needs. Adjusting practice protocol to respond to these needs is essential. Cat-friendly programs can assist practices and help them offer services in a way that is supportive and respectful of feline patients.
Avoiding a catastrophe
Ensuring good health among felines is just as important as promoting good health among canines. When practices are ill-equipped to respond to feline needs, owners may delay veterinary visits to spare themselves and the pet the trauma and drama that characterize the office visit. Treatment deferrals can endanger a cat’s health and well-being.
There’s a saying helping professionals use: meet people where they are, meaning that sometimes we want people---or in this case felines---to act/grow/learn/advance according to our expectations. If they won’t or can’t act in a manner that is consistent with our expectations, we become disillusioned or disinterested in helping the person progress. When we meet the person where they are, we address the foundational issues that are interfering with their behavior and create an environment where it is safe to work through anxiety and fears and move forward.
Anyone who has been in a veterinary office and heard the howls of a cat confined to a carrier or witnessed the anxiety-fueled behavior of a frightened cat in an exam room understands that no amount of wishing, hoping or praying will change the situation.
However, when practice staff chooses to meet the cat where it is---even if that “is” is a frenzied, anxious place---and recognize and address feline concerns, the odds of soothing the cat and creating a more pleasant environment improve. Becoming a cat-friendly practice can equip the practice with the tools and resources to improve the health of feline patients.
Feline patients and owners benefit from cat-friendly practices because the visit becomes less stressful. As cats react positively to the visits, owners are emboldened to seek veterinary on time and when needed, thereby improving the overall health of the cat.
But it’s not only the patient and client who benefit. A study of feline-friendly practices conducted by the American Association of Feline Practitioners found:
- 83 percent reported more patient visits because of better feline handling and Cat-Friendly Practice marketing.
- 80 percent gained new feline patients.
- 79 percent saw higher revenue after the program was implemented.
- 98 percent would recommend the designation to other veterinary professionals.
- 81 percent received positive client feedback.
- 88 percent noticed a positive team dynamic in the handling, treating and care of cats.
- 93 percent reported an improvement in feline knowledge and care among practice staff.
What are you waiting for?
Regardless of where you are in your journey to create a more welcoming environment for cat patients, there is information available to help the practice get started or continue the process. Partners for Healthy Pets offers tools and resources to help your practice maintain or develop a strong emphasis on felines, access the Feline-Friendly Practice tools here.