Leading Off: Attract cat clients with friendly handling
The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study surveyed more than 1,000 cat owners, and results indicate that 58.2% of cats "hate to go to the vet" and that 37.6% of cat owners say "just thinking about the veterinary visit is stressful."2 This has resulted in many cats not receiving much-needed veterinary care, causing lack of disease prevention, delayed treatment, and reduced quality and length of life for the cat.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines provide solutions based on scientific evidence and understanding of the feline species to help improve the veterinary experience for cats and cat owners and, subsequently, increase feline visits.3 Download a PDF of the guidelines and the client handout at http://catvets.com/professionals/guidelines/publications.WHAT'S IN THE GUIDELINES?
Three important areas are discussed in the handling guidelines to help you attract cat owners and cats to your practice. These ideas can be incorporated into any veterinary practice that sees cats, regardless of whether it is a mixed-animal, companion-animal, or all-feline hospital. And they don't require expensive changes to your hospital. The three areas are
• Client education to make the carrier and car trip less stressful for cats and cat owners (Figure 1).
• Tips to make the practice environment more comfortable and calm for the cat (Figure 2).
• Handling techniques to prevent feline fear and pain, the most common causes of feline aggression in the veterinary practice (Figure 3).
Compare this with the picture of dog owners and their dogs excited to go for a car ride, meet new people, and get "cookies" as treats at the veterinary practice. Fortunately, our feline patients can experience these things, too. The guidelines and client handout provide the needed information to help you and your team.
The practice perspective
Inexpensive changes to make the practice environment more cat-friendly include changing the waiting room so that seating areas are back-to-back or surrounded by plants so that cats don't see unfamiliar dogs. Getting the cat into the examination room right away or having certain times when only cats are seen are some other suggestions provided. The guidelines contain many other tips, too.