Rolling Out the Welcome Mat for an Underserved Population Cat Friendly Practices, a Significant Step Toward Improving the Health and Well-Being of Cats
It’s an age-old question: Cats or dogs? The public has spoken. Cats are the clear choice pet of choice, making up the greater number of home companion animals. In 2011, more than 86 million cats were owned as pets, compared to 78 million dogs. Yet surprisingly, cat wellness and veterinary care do not appear to be as high of a priority among cat owners. The 2011 Bayer Healthcare, L…L.C., Brakke Consulting, Care Usage Study revealed that almost twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian. Of the cats that do visit the veterinarian, they average 26% fewer visits than dogs. In order to improve the health and well0-being of cats, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has initiated the Cat Friendly Practice program.
Navigating the Veterinary Visit
Cats may be number one in the hearts of their owners, but dogs seem to receive more consistent and regular health care. Cat owners report that the stress of transporting their pets to the veterinarian, along with the cat’s reluctance to enter a new and unfamiliar environment, causes anxiety for both cats and owners. Both feel anxiety and stress before they even step food in the office. Once in the office, there are other potential stresses including dogs or other cats in the waiting areas, staff who do not know how to handle cats, and a canine focused environment. Cat Friendly Practices are the antidote to the stressful veterinary visit for cats.
The AAFP Promotes Quality Care
The AAFP Cat Friendly Practice program was first conceived in the United Kingdom by the Feline Academy Bureau. Participating practices in the UK that have become cat friendly have noticed a considerable difference. The AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice Program was inspired to ensure that veterinary practices in North America are committed to feline health care and implementing cat friendly standards.
This program was created to improve the standards of veterinary care for cats in practice settings. Cat Friendly Practices are sensitive to cat’s distinct needs and equipped to address their physical and behavioral needs, thereby increasing cat owner knowledge, veterinary visits and ultimately improving health care of cats by educating on the importance of wellness visits and preventive care. The program standards are designed to encourage and facilitate high-quality feline veterinary care while addressing the unique challenges and difficulties associated with bringing cats into the veterinary practice.
Veterinarians and their team members who have achieved Cat Friendly Practice status regard the practice with an entirely new perspective. By adopting a feline perspective in all areas that contribute to care, including the practice environment, staff training, client education and more, the practice culture becomes one in which every person is mindful of constantly improving the experience and care of the feline patient.
Cat Friendly Practices have completed a self-assessment checklist that shows they have incorporated the standard criteria for their practice to be cat friendly. The program standards for the delivery of care to the feline population are research-based and represent the highest standards of feline medical care. Once the practice has met the criteria on the checklist, reviewed educational materials, and designated a Cat Advocate in their practice, their practice will be submitted for approval into the program.
Topic areas addressed in the program include staff training and client communication; waiting room design; feline handling; examination rooms and clinical records; wards/facilities; pain management/operating room and anesthesia; surgical equipment/dentistry; diagnostic imaging/lab facilities; treatment/health and safety; and preventive care by life stages. The Cat Advocate will ensure that the high standards of feline care in the practice are maintained as well as act the point person for information.
What to Expect From a Cat Friendly Practice?
Cat Friendly Practices are sensitive to the needs of both cats and their owners. Cat Friendly Practices consider the unique needs of cats in the waiting and examination rooms, handling of feline patients, attitude and knowledge of staff, and the comfort and concern for cats and their owners.
Staff training and continuing education are key. Within a Cat Friendly Practice, clients will find that the staff is well versed in feline handling techniques and can expertly deal with frightened cats. Furthermore, the staff is well trained in alternate techniques to calm an anxious cat and ensure that exams and procedures do not escalate anxiety.
Staff training focuses on being knowledgeable about the complete cycle of feline life stage issues that require special care and attention. As with humans, health issues change as aging occurs. The frequency of health care visits may need to increase and the course of treatment will be adjusted according to the cat’s individual healthcare plan.
Once obvious advantage of a Cat Friendly Practice is a physical environment that is all about the cat including special waiting rooms and waiting accommodations, feline-sensitive examination rooms and ward facilities, and equipment appropriate for cats.
Other areas that are vetted for cat safety and comfort include the operating rooms and anesthesia, diagnostic imaging, laboratory facilities and dentistry practices.
Finding a Cat Friendly Practice
Cats are extremely popular, slightly misunderstood, and influenced by the territorial, solitary and sometimes wild behavior of their ancestors. However, cats are loving pets and comforting companions. The decision to seek out a Cat Friendly Practice is an important step in securing a veterinary practice that is expertly suited to address your pet’s unique needs and to provide you with advice and information that is critical to your cat’s health. Animal Health Services is a Cat Friendly Practice.
For more information please call us at 480-339-0406.