Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Cat friendly clinic programs

Synonym(s): Cat friendly practice; ISFM cat friendly clinic

Contributor(s): Andy Sparkes, Ilona Rodan

The need for clinics to be cat friendly

  • Over many years, in most countries, there has been a trend for increasing cat ownership and static or decreasing dog ownership.
  • This means that in many countries cats are at least as popular as dogs or, in many cases, the pet cat population exceeds that of dogs.
  • Despite the growth in ownership of cats, data from the USA shows that most cats do not receive an annual examination, dogs are generally seen at clinics twice as frequently as cats and the average annual veterinary spending on dogs is 2-3 times that on cats.
  • One of the major obstacles to improved veterinary healthcare of cats and more frequent veterinary visits is the stress experienced by cats during a veterinary examination.
  • In contrast to dogs, cats are highly territorial and their social system is flexible - they can live either solitarily or in groups, the latter only if their needs are met, which includes safe space. This means that most cats feel both threatened and vulnerable when removed from their home environment. Nearly 60% of owners report that their cat hates going to the veterinary clinic and nearly 40% of owners report that they themselves get stressed just thinking about taking their cat to the veterinary clinic.
  • These data emphasise the real need for veterinary clinics to become more cat friendly and to take steps to reduce the stress for cats (and their owners) during a veterinary visit, and so to facilitate more frequent visits.
  • Most small animal clinics are designed far more with dogs in mind than cats. However, creating a more cat friendly environment is not difficult, although it requires a different mind-set and approach.
  • Making a clinic cat-friendly requires changes in attitudes, understanding and handling of cats, as well as the structure (design and layout) of the clinic and clinical equipment.
  • It is also vitally important to consider other factors surrounding the veterinary visit such as the transport of the cat to and from the clinic and the re-introduction of the cat to the home environment (especially in a multi-cat household after one cat has spent time in the veterinary clinic).
  • Developing the right attitude to cats has many aspects. Some people are naturally more empathetic towards cats and are able to handle them in a calm and relaxed manner. For others, this does not come easily, but that does not mean it cannot be learned. The starting point is having a genuine understanding of cats, along with developing a calm approach to their handling.
  • Having staff know and understand the specific needs of cats is at least as important as any changes to equipment and facilities in the clinic.
  • To engage properly with both cats as patients and cat clients, it is essential to be more cat friendly. This involves changes in all areas of the veterinary practice.
Waiting room and reception area
  • If consultations take place on the premises, a suitable waiting room should be provided. Efforts must be made to avoid direct contact between dogs and cats in the waiting room. Ideally a dedicated cat only waiting room and consultation room should be provided   .

Interactions with cats

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Hospitalization of cats

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ISFM Cat Friendly Clinic program

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Volk J O, Thomas J G, Colleran E J et al (2014) Executive summary of phase 3 of the Bayer veterinary care usage study. J Am Vet Med Assoc 244 (7), 799-802 PubMed.
  • Carney H C, Little S, Brownlee-Tomasso D et al (2012) AAFP and ISFM feline-friendly nursing care guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 14 (5), 337-349 PubMed.
  • Rodan I, Sundahl E, Carney H et al (2011) AAFP and ISFM feline-friendly handling guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 13 (5), 364-375 PubMed.