Are all vets who treat cats the same? No! Are even all vets that treat cats the same? No again!
There are general pet vet clinics that care for cats and dogs and ferrets and birds and there are vets that run their practice according to specific Feline Friendly standards, while also administering to other species. So prior to you're cats first visit, how can you know if the veterinarian you are considering is as Feline Friendly as you'd like?
Why do you need a cat friendly vet? Aren't all vets the same?
Although some vets may look to specialise in a particular area of care from early on in their careers, it is true that they all go through broadly the same education and training. Whilst it would be unusual to find a vet who won't treat cats, it's probably fair to say that most vets would just see them as another (somewhat difficult) patient and not the special family member in the way that you do!
This makes it even more important to make sure you register with a vet who sees your cat as more than just the next appointment in the day. And it's a lot simpler to do that than you may think!
How Dr Kim welcomes a first time client
What’s different about a Feline Friendly practice?
At your first visit to the veterinarian, It's fairly easy to know you are walking into a Feline Friendly vet's practice immediately you arrive.
They may, for example, have a separate waiting area for cats to avoid the stress of sharing a small space with dogs or other animals.
Your cat won't understand that a dog with friendly intentions means her no harm, especially in a strange environment, and being away from the main waiting area will not only keep your cat relaxed, but will also mean they will be far happier during the consultation.
What to look for when evaluating a Feline Friendly practice
A separate waiting area for cats Because of the restriction of physical space in many practices, this may be impractical. Not having one, doesn't necessarily mean that a vet is any less passionate about cats than one who is able to spare the room, but it’s a great indicator you could be in a good place. Even if there is no separate space, having a shelf up high (beyond the reach of even the tallest dog’s nose) where the cat’s carrier can be placed - and with the owner in the chair underneath - is a giveaway sign that the vet practice takes cat’s concerns seriously.
Information material, decorations All practices, whether home to a cat vet or not, will have posters and other informative literature around the waiting area. If there is a decent proportion of cat-specific material, this is usually a good indicator that at least one vet in attendance may be more Feline Friendly than in a practice where the literature is directed more towards dogs or other species. If there is a recent newsletter published in the practice that features cats then even better.
Pheromones You can’t see these but Fluffy smell's them! They emanate from the patients as ‘odour spritzers of fear’ and are the cause of lots more worry.
Dogs pee on things in the waiting room for the same reason. Feline pheromones such as Feliway can be very useful in reducing stress levels when transporting a cat, and vets who are especially accommodating may have a plugin active in the waiting area to provide the same benefits.
More especially, there will be concerted efforts to eliminate smells from the environment - disinfectants smell worse to cats than to you, and hygiene is a huge key to ‘scent success’.
Qualifications There may be qualifications hanging on the wall, so it's worth seeing if any are feline-specific qualifications from recognised bodies to indicate the presence of a cat vet. Documentation from the International Cat Care Charity (previously known as the Feline Advisory Bureau) will be a giveaway!
The questions you get asked and the way your questions are answered
Some good questions to ask at the first visit...
Many staff who work in a veterinary practice are there because they are already animal-friendly. But the questions they ask and they way they answer yours, while paying attention to your feline Fluffy, will speak volumes.
Good knowledge and a like-minded approach usually means good experience. And be ready to have your records exchanged between vets. You may think your memory is purrfect, but the details of previous veterinary encounters for your cat can save everyone time, effort and cost.
Ask about the philosophy behind cat friendly care and their approach.
Show the vet and the staff any of the material on this site or on the International Cat Care Site. See how they respond - particularly to the notion of Feline Friendly.
Can I visit my pet cat? If she has to stay overnight for observation it would generally be possible to visit if you wanted.
If you are on the phone - note the level of concern shown: ‘well, that doesn't sound very important, are you sure you want to bring him in?”
“Drinking more? Well, that is probably her kidneys and we can't do much for those”
Remember, even if a vet ticks all of the boxes mentioned above, it's of no benefit to your cat if it means an anxious hour's drive to get there.
Your ultimate choice will need to include other considerations such as location or cost. You also need to have a good feeling for the practice generally. If something about it doesn't feel right, before you look elsewhere, see if that vet can institute some changes that will tick more boxes as more cats will benefit too! If they won’t, it might be better to look elsewhere. If you don't trust your vet 100%, nobody benefits.
How to live happily after with your cat. Select any image to own Dr. Kim's expert guide.