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Bringing clients back—reaching out to cat owners (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Its no secret that cats don't like going to the veterinarian. They've never liked it. Unfortunately, cat owners are giving up the battle and fewer cats than ever before are visiting a veterinarian regularly. Information from the 2007 US Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook showed a significant decline between 2001 and 2006 in the number of visits cats made to the veterinarian. Five years later, cats still aren't getting the care they need according to the recently released Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. Insights from this study, however, show us what we need to do to reverse this trend.

"Feline resistance" isn't the only factor driving the decline in veterinary visits. The study, a research initiative conducted by Bayer Animal Health, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and Brakke Consulting, identified five other key reasons that visits have been declining: "sticker shock," the recession, the fragmentation of veterinary services, the Internet, and a lack of understanding about the need for care.

Reach out to cats and their owners

Cats that need medical care are out there. About 30-40% of visits in a typical clinic involve cats and yet cats outnumber dogs as owned pets. Many of your clients own cats that you don't even know about. The first step is to identify these felines. Don't just say, "Do you have any other pets?" on your new client worksheet"; say "Do you have any cats?" "When did they last visit a veterinarian? Train your receptionists to follow up on these questions if they are left blank and to also ask these questions of every current client that comes in so your records are up to date. Then use that information—set these pets up in the reminder system and flag them in the records so that doctors and other team members talk to the client about the needed care even if this isn't the pet they have brought to the practice today. Everyone should ask about the status of every pet during every visit: "How is Fluffy doing? We haven't seen her in over a year. Let's schedule an appointment."

And of course, reach out to cat owners who don't currently visit your practice. Form alliances with cat clubs, boarding facilities and animal welfare organizations in order to educate cat owners about the need for care through seminars, mailings, first time visit promotions or other joint activities.