Cat Friendly Vet

As my professors back in vet school often intoned, “cats are not small dogs.” In other words, Felis catus (formerly Felis domesticus) is a separate species, with its own unique needs.

Cats demand special considerations in lots of areas, and I'm not just talking about differences in anatomy and physiology.

Unfortunately, not all companion animal hospitals concede to all their diverse needs, particularly when it comes to what cats care about most: things that stress them out.

Why Cats Need Kid Glove Treatment at the Vet's Office

Although I hate to admit it, some hospitals will systematically handle cats in the same way that they handle dogs — they restrain felines more roughly than cats feel comfortable with or they ignore some basic tenets of cat psychology.

For example, I’ve seen some vet staffers blithely place cat-occupied carriers alongside caged, barking dogs. Or they will hospitalize sick, stressed cats in full view of slathering canines. Can you imagine what that does to a cat’s psyche? It's no wonder that these kitties reveal more teeth and claws at future vet visits. These common practices also don’t bode well for a speedy recovery.

Then there’s this depressing reality: Veterinarians know that cat owners aren’t willing to spend as much as dog owners. The fact is that cats outnumber dogs as pets in the U.S. — yet they get taken to the vet less often.

Some veterinarians argue that it's hard to get deeply involved with a case when they know that a cat owner is more likely than a dog owner to decline a treatment plan, based on the fact that "she’s just a cat."

But I believe feline under-appreciation also happens because cats can be tougher to work with, requiring more patience — as do many of their owners, who tend to be slightly quirkier than the average dog owner.

5 Ways Veterinarians Are Retooling Their Approach to Cat Care

Despite all of this talk of cat dissing, there’s lots of good news on the horizon.

For starters, cat-only hospitals can handle your every feline need in a highly specialized and super cat-friendly environment. Not only are feline practitioners, on average, more likely to be up-to-date on feline issues — like vaccine protocols and cat-specific approaches to medicine and handling — but the atmosphere is also typically more serene.

Of course, your area may not offer one of these fine facilities. Luckily, veterinarians are beginning to shift their second-class citizen attitudes toward cats. Recent efforts within the wider veterinary community geared toward increasing feline vet visits, and the emerging concept of “cat-friendly” hospitals, have started to improve the outlook for kitties.

But we still have a long way to go health care-wise, which is why you need to pay attention to certain details to improve your cat's veterinary experience:

The noise factor. Is your animal clinic of choice super loud? Hospitals that offer boarding can be especially noisy — and a high volume of patients is typically not a factor in your cat’s favor.

Separate but equal. Is there a dog-free zone for you to wait with your cat, as well as a separate feline ward?

Sensitivity to feline needs. Your vet’s explanations may include details about your cat’s reaction to certain stimuli, indicating a kitty-centric outlook. Your vet may not even want to hospitalize your cat or perform a procedure on that day because of a barker in the back.

In-room procedures. Blood draws and other restraint-requiring procedures are often best performed in the exam room, so there’s minimal stressful translocation of the freaked-out feline.

Low-stress handling. Does your vet have a light touch? Do her technicians? Scruffing (grasping by the loose skin at the nape of the neck), in particular, can be extra stressful for some cats. A hospital that handles each cat like an individual — softer holds for cats who clearly need it — is an especially desirable trait.

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