Sunday, December 28, 2014

Study: Vets need to make clinics more cat friendly

Is your vet's office feline friendly?

Study: Vets need to make clinics more cat friendly

UPDATE: The American Association of Feline Practioners alerted me to a bad Catvets link in the blog and directed me to a list of cat friendly vet clinics in the U.S., including six in PA. Here is the working link.

Is your vet's office feline friendly?

A new study concludes vets could do a better job making their clinics more welcoming to cats - and even suggests that there may be an inherent bias among many vets against cats.

The study reveals that 78 percent of veterinarians believe that better care for cats represents one of the most significant, missed opportunities for the profession.

Most veterinarians recognize that cat owners consider a visit to the veterinarian to be stressful for themselves and their pets, yet nearly one-third of practices have not trained staff on how to make visits less stressful for cat owners.

In addition, relatively few practices have adopted procedures such as: exam rooms used only for cats (35 percent); cat-only waiting areas that are physically and visually separated from dogs (18 percent); and cat-only days and appointment hours (11 percent).

(I'd like to address the separate area for cats. We love our vets at Boiling Springs Animal Hospital, but if it's crowded, the arrangement of seating means you may be waiting in a seat next to a client with an overly curious, over-sized dog. Some dog owners think it's cute to let their pup put his giant, panting face in the cat carrier opening. The cats inside? Not so much.)

Is Fluffy feeling snubbed? The study also found that most vets actually favor dogs.

"To some extent, veterinarians' own biases may play a role in how they pursue feline patients," said Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, owner of Chico Hospital for Cats, Chico, Calif., and past president of American Association of Feline Practitioners "For example, the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III: Feline Findings found that, while veterinarians are nearly equally likely to own a dog or cat—81 percent versus 70 percent—48 percent prefer dogs, while only 17 percent prefer cats."

The study further confirmed a preference for dog over cat patients by veterinarians, who indicated: dogs are easier to work with than cats during wellness exams (90 versus 65 percent); cats are more challenging to diagnose than dogs (57 versus 34 percent); and dogs actually enjoy visiting the clinic (79 versus 15 percent). Interestingly, 20 percent of veterinarians with cats report not having conducted a wellness exam on own their cat in the past twelve months.

The study, based on a survey of 401 veterinary practices last November, was conducted by Bayer HealthCare in collaboration with the AAFP, and was presented recently at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The purpose of the study is to improve veterinary care of pets by determining why visits are declining and helping veterinarians reverse the trend, Bayer officials said. Earlier phases of the study found that cats were less likely to receive regular veterinary care.

The AAFP has instituted a "Cat Friendly Practice" (CFP) Program. CFP contains multimedia educational resources covering such areas as: understanding cat behavior; pet owner communication; waiting room comfort and handling guidelines.

To date, 259 veterinary practices have become CFP-approved, with an additional 530 pending or working towards approval. (Only two clinics so far are listed in the United States and none in Pennsylvania.) For further information, visit: http://catfriendlypractice.

The study found that 46 percent of veterinary clinics have recently started taking specific steps to increase visits among current feline patients, attract more cat-owning clients, and make their practices more "friendly" to cats

Ten-plus things veterinarians can do now to increase cat visits:

-Find the un-served/under-served cats in your practice by asking about other household pets on every visit and tracking reminder compliance

-Educate cat owners on carrier use and transporting cats

-Make your waiting room as cat-welcoming as possible by establishing separate areas for dogs and cats and installing visual barriers, if possible

-Reserve one or more exam rooms for cats only

-Train all staff regularly in cat-friendly handling

-Review and refine feline exam protocols

-Talk through the exam with cat owners

-Use and dispense feline-friendly medications

-Send home an exam report every time

-Schedule the next exam before the cat leaves the practice

-Join AAFP and become a certified Cat Friendly Practice

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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