Rachael Humber explains why she thinks all cat owners should use a cat-friendly clinic
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What can help your approach
Ensure all staff, including those on reception, understand how to meet a cat’s needs. Simple changes can be implemented in any setting: for example, encouraging owners to place cat carriers on chairs rather than the floor in the waiting area; providing clean towels/blankets for owners to cover carriers while waiting; and instigating cat-only consultation sessions.
More practical tips, and information on becoming an International Society of Feline Medicine-accredited cat-friendly clinic can be found at www.catfriendlyclinic.org/vets-nurses/.
Refer clients to www.icatcare.org for owner-friendly information that they can use to make trips to the vet less stressful.
Use social media and your practice website to shout about your approach to cats and emphasise the changes you have made to make a visit to the clinic as stress-free as possible.
Five years ago my partner and I took in a 10 year-old exotic rescue cat, Lillie. We both have had cats before and understand how pet relationships work, but neither of us could have imagined then how much of an impact she would have on us and those around her. Her cattery dubbed her HRH Lillie.
When we adopted her, we were given the usual information (known history and medical stats). She was examined by a local vet and given a clean bill of health, but with one exception: all but three of her teeth had to be removed due to the poor care she had experienced in her early life. Not long after, we decided, in consultation with a different vet at the same practice, that the three remaining teeth should also be removed. After this was done, we noticed a vast improvement in her already happy demeanour. The only caveat is that we now have to mash her food as she is unable to rip and chew.
Lillie has had two other ongoing health issues. The first is that she is a flat-faced cat and this can present particular problems with her tear ducts being narrow and prone to infection. Second, we had noticed that Lillie was always hunting around for treats and we suspected that in her earlier life she was left to forage for whatever she could find. This seems to have led to her having a very easily irritated digestive system. With the support of our vet both problems were brought under control.
However, our favourite vet then left the clinic and it was then that we noticed there was a high turnover of staff at the clinic. This resulted in very poor continuity of care for her and made us review why we kept Lillie there as a patient. At that time, a volunteer at our local Cats Protection had started a Facebook group called Isle of Cats. Members post pictures/videos of their kitties; information for lost cats; and hints and help for cat owners. So, when postings appeared promoting a new, local cat-friendly clinic on the group, we were intrigued and took the opportunity to check them out.
From the moment we walked in to the clinic I felt that this was the place for Lillie. There was accessible parking, a large spacious reception area and a discrete quiet cat waiting area and spacious examination rooms only for cats. This fresh approach to customer and pet comfort was the difference between night and day for me and Lillie. The trauma of sharing a waiting area with other animals, especially dogs was gone! The bright and airy consultation room was so much less clinical and made us and Lillie more relaxed. The personal approach of the veterinary nurses and vets made for additional comfort for both Lillie and us. All of this, together with the cat-friendly and cat-knowledgeable reception staff, made us feel right at home. From Lillie’s first consultation onwards she has been very comfortable there; at no time has she shown any sign of stress or discomfort and her purr is loud and constant. We have found this clinic to be the first word in ‘Cat Friendly’, and see no need to take Lillie anywhere else.
We cat owners are a passionate bunch, and we look out for each other. When we find a top-notch vet and clinic, word gets around fast
Based on this experience, I would strongly advise cat owners to find a clinic that takes great care to make cats feel comfortable and secure, with quiet, nurturing surroundings and friendly, knowledgeable staff. To vets: remember that we cat owners are a passionate bunch, and we look out for each other. When we find a top-notch vet and clinic, word gets around fast. Provide us with a clean, spacious, bright and quiet area just for cats, along with well-trained staff, and we’ll be there.
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