Cleveland Road Animal Hospital (CRAH) is the first local veterinary practice to be certified as a Gold Level Cat Friendly Practice by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). The designation signifies CRAH is committed to ensuring cats and their owners experience quality care at every phase of the cat’s health process. The Gold Level indicates the practice goes above and beyond the standard protocols.
“We often hear concerns from our cat owners on the stress and anxiety experienced by a trip to the veterinary office,” said Caitlin Karl, DVM at CRAH. “The pressure and tension is not just with the patient, it carries over to the owner. The worry over an office visit results in many felines not receiving regular care.”
Cats present unique challenges before, during and after a veterinary visits according to Elizabeth Colleran, AAFP past president. Nervousness is caused by an aversion to carriers, sensitivity to new sights and smells and an unfamiliar location or experience. Understanding the obstacles and helping clients minimize their pet’s fears is one portion of a Cat Friendly Practice. Adapting the hospital facility and advanced staff training are additional key elements.
“Our staff is well trained to interpret a cat’s facial expressions and body language and they understand feline-friendly handling,” said Dr. Caitlin. “We incorporate cat appropriate toys and offer free range of the exam room so they can explore every part of the area. These procedures calm the patient and help to ensure the exam does not escalate anxiety.”
On the facility side, CRAH features a cat only exam room. It has a large window great for the curious cat and a soft cushy cloth perfect for resting. A synthetic feline facial pheromone is evident in the room to help comfort and reassure cats. Mimicking the cat’s natural pheromones used to mark their territory helps create an atmosphere of a safe and secure environment.
Integrating protocols in the exam room are only one example of how CRAH works to create a Cat Friendly Practice. Mini houses were added to the hospital area. Cats love to be sheltered and hidden. The hutch-shaped houses give our patients a private sanctuary after operations and dental procedures.
On the boarding side CRAH has condo living with up and down space and a designated area for the litter box. All cat condos face the front of the facility where our feline guests can watch everyone coming and going. The unique cat playroom features window seats, cat friendly toys and a huge cat crawl house.
“It is extremely important both indoor and outdoor cats have an annual wellness visit and for cats over seven years old we need to see them twice a year,” said Dr. Caitlin. “Just like humans, the sooner we detect a medical challenge the better chance we have at treating it. Preventative care is the best way to ensure a long, healthy, happy life for our cats.”
Bringing your cat to the vet:
We know bringing your cat to the vet can be a stressful experience for you and for your cat. We also know that an annual examination is the single most important part of keeping your cat healthy at home. The following is a list of tips to help make your cat’s annual trip to the vet as pleasurable as possible.
- Begin with carrier training: Put the carrier out days before your appointment and allow your cat to explore it. Better yet, leave the carrier out all the time for your cat to sleep in or play in. Cat’s are very perceptive to their environment. If you only bring the carrier out when you are about to leave for the annual vet appointment, they will remember that. They immediately become stressed and anxious as soon as they see the carrier come out of storage, and you are already off to a bad start to your trip to Cleveland Road Animal Hospital.
- Use Feliway spray in the carrier on a towel, applying 10-15 minutes prior to trying to load your cat. Feliway is a cat appeasing pheromone that will help relax them and help make them feel at ease in the carrier. You can pick this product up at our hospital before your scheduled appointment.
- Bring a large towel from home so if needed, you can cover the carrier in the lobby or your car. Some cat’s are simply more relaxed when the cage is covered.
- ALWAYS use a cat carrier in the car, for your cat’s safety and yours! Allowing your cat to be loose in the car will make then more stressed, and they feel more secure when they have their “safe place” to sit in during the ride. Also, many cat’s have run away from their owner in veterinary hospital parking lots.
- Take your cat’s favorite treats and toys for play/interaction in the exam room. Tuna paste, anchovy paste, or other tasty treats are often very helpful to help put your cat at ease.
- Take your cat on a practice car trip, where you load up, get in the car, go to the vet, but don’t actually do anything stressful to them while they are visiting. You and your cat are always welcome to visit CRAH to play, eat, visit then go back home without getting examined, restrained, vaccinated, etc. I’ll be honest, I have done a driving trip where I stopped at a coffee shop drive-thru and got whipped cream for a cat I was transporting on a practice drive! They offer it for dogs all the time as well!
- For the most unhappy and stressed-out patients, we can prescribe safe, sedative medications ahead of time that you can give to your cat at home before the appointment to make the entire trip safer and more enjoyable for you and your cat.
* Some of the above information courtesy of Amanda Eick-Miller and the The Behavior Clinic. www.thebehaviorclinic.com