How to make your practice feline friendly (Proceedings)


How to make your practice feline friendly (Proceedings)

There is no question that feline medicine has grown steadily in popularity since the 1970s when the first feline-only practices were established. Today, organizations such as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP;, the Cornell Feline Health Center (, the International Society of Feline Medicine (, the Winn Feline Foundation ( and the Feline Advisory Bureau ( provide funding for feline health research and continuing education for veterinarians and cat owners. Cats have now surpassed dogs as the most popular companion animal in many countries. In the United States, there are over 93 million pet cats compared with over 77 million pet dogs. One-third of households own at least 1 cat, and the average number of cats per household is 2.45. Canadians own 8.5 million cats compared with 6 million pet dogs. About 35% of Canadian households own at least 1 cat and the average number of cats per household is 1.76. However, some alarming statistics about feline veterinary care have been published in the United States. In 2006, only 64% of cats visited a veterinarian compared with 83% of dogs. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of feline veterinary visits declined by over 10% despite an increase in the number of owned cats. In addition, pet owners spend half as much on veterinary care for cats compared with dogs.

The reasons for the decline in feline veterinary care are multiple and complex. They include issues such as:
     • Difficulty getting the cat to the veterinary clinic
     • A low level of owner awareness of cats' basic medical needs
     • Difficulty recognizing subtle signs of illness in cats
     • The perception that cats are able to take care of themselves
     • The low perceived value of cats, since most cats are acquired for free
     • Owner discomfort and stress associated with experiences at the veterinary clinic

How to encourage more feline veterinary visits
All veterinarians that treat cats can benefit from an understanding of the unique nature of cats as well as the physiologic and behavioral responses to stress experienced by this species. Cats are bonded to their home environment and seldom leave it by choice. Being forced into a strange environment makes a cat uncertain about its safety and causes anxiety and distress. Cats prefer to avoid danger and confrontation by running away or hiding, strategies that are not easy to employ during veterinary visits. Young kittens rarely experience anxiety at veterinary visits, but it may become apparent as the cat matures. Implementation of approaches to create a cat-friendly practice environment and use of respectful handling techniques will improve welfare and veterinary care for cats as well as make working with cats more rewarding for the veterinary team. In addition, health care tailored to the various feline life stages improves early recognition and treatment of problems, thereby improving feline health and welfare and preserving the human-animal bond.

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VETTED - Sep 19, 2016