First steps to becoming feline friendly - Veterinary Practice
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First steps to becoming feline friendly

Emily Syms of Axe Valley Vets explains how her practice took on a “better cattitude” challenge and found it’s the small things that make a big di erence for cats being brought in.

can be daunting for a
general practice.

Hurdles such as cost, lack of
knowledge and potential lack of uptake
by clients may put off a practice from
going down this route. Plus, there is
the attitude of
“If it ain’t broke
don’t x it,” with
many practices
thinking they’re
managing just fine with their
feline patients as
they are.

In reality,
however, there
are many small
steps that any practice can take to
work towards becoming more feline
friendly, and the rewards far outweigh
the overheads in our experience.
Happy cats mean happy owners and,
since these patients can be much more
amenable to handling, will also equal
happy vets!

The simple act of advertising that
your practice takes the welfare of its
feline patients seriously can improve
client satisfaction. Just knowing that
you care can really reassure owners
that their pet will be looked after in the
nicest way possible.

There are unlimited ways to do
this and social media offers a great
opportunity for sharing photos, videos,
news bulletins and updates to really
target and educate your feline client

Start at home

Many practices forget about client
education but, for cat owners, adjusting
their own behaviour is often the first
step to becoming more feline friendly.
For the patient, the stress of a visit to
the vet starts from the moment the
cat carrier is produced at home and
continues throughout the journey and
the wait in reception. The type of basket can impact on the cat’s stress
levels: top-opening boxes with sides
that are covered to half way up are

Other tricks, such as letting the cat
get used to the carrier at home for a
couple of days before the vet visit, the
use of Feliway, appropriate placement of the carrier in the car and placing items that smell familiar in the carrier, are all key to minimising the stress of the journey and are easy things for an owner to do.

Our receptionists are now encouraged to discuss these tips with clients when booking
appointments and clients are generally
grateful for the advice. Giving this
advice to owners in advance is one of
the cheapest and most effective “cat
friendly” steps a practice can take.

At the practice

The waiting room is where positive changes to reduce feline stress can be driven by the practice. Ideally, cats should be physically separated from dogs, but this is not always achievable. To get around this, we now run cat-only clinic times as well as our usual surgeries, but are working on separating our large reception with a shoulder-height barrier to keep cats at least out of sight of dogs. Ultimately, we would like a completely separate cat ward and reception, but that is more of a long-term goal.

Whatever the situation, cats will feel
more at ease if raised off the floor,
such as on a chair or table and covered
with a blanket. We encourage owners
to bring a cover the cat is familiar
with, but we do provide blankets
sprayed with Feliway if they don’t have
one. Keeping the waiting room calm
and quiet and preventing cats from
seeing other patients keeps stress to a

Once in the consulting room it is
down to the vet to adapt his or her
behaviour to become more feline
friendly. The only extra piece of
equipment I have needed since trying
to improve my “cattitude” is a towel for each patient placed ready on the
consult table.

Cats much prefer to stand on the
softer surface and it means that if the
cat needs more restraint the process
is smoother and less stressful. So, the
towels, a litter tray and a decent pair
of quiet clippers have been our only
expenses to date.

Small but significant

Small changes, such as opening the
carrier on the oor rather than the
table and letting the cat explore
its surroundings ignored – while
discussing the problem with the owner
– can make a huge difference.

I often find a cat will voluntarily
jump onto the consult table while
I’m talking! Plus, this allows you to
perform your distance exam and
evaluate gait, stance and behaviour
before the clinical examination.

Cats may find eye contact stressful
so try not to stare at the patient too
intently and consider doing your basic
clinical exam in reverse (tail to nose),
with the patient facing away from you.
Many cats also respond just as well
to treats as our canine patients, which
can be used to your advantage – and
owners like to see their cats relaxed
enough to eat in the consult room!

In summary, there are many small
things that can be improved in any
practice, and mostly these can be
done with zero or little cost, just by
adapting staff and owners’ attitudes
and behaviours.

We’ve started with small steps and
have not only noticed the difference in
the patients we see in consults – they
are generally more amenable to being
handled and more affectionate – but
also in the owners walking out of the
surgery door.

We put together a feedback form
and asked clients to comment on the
new feline friendly clinic approach: the
positive feedback was overwhelming!
Clients noticed a difference in their
cat’s demeanour, commenting that
they seemed calmer in both the waiting room and during the consultation.

  • For more information on
    International Cat Care’s Cat Friendly
    Clinic initiative, visit http://icatcare.

Some client feedback…

  • “The Feliway blanket worked
    straight away for Goose. Owners need
    one soaked in gin!”
  • “It’s great to have a feline clinic.
    It’s something I’ve read about in
    the FAB journal over the years and
    really thought was a good idea. Great
    attention to detail and, as always, great
    treatment from Emily and the other
  • “Our cat was calmer than on a
    normal visit.”
  • “It would be very useful to offer a
    morning clinic, as I’m sure lots of cats
    are kept in at night and therefore easy
    to locate for the appointment. My cats
    disappear for a good portion of the
    day, particularly in the afternoon.”

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