Visiting the Vet
Finding a good Vet For Your Cat
If you have a cat then you will need to find a good vet, both for routine cat care and for any health problems that might arise.
Many vets are increasingly enthusiastic about cats. However, simply choosing a veterinary clinic which sees cats may not be enough to ensure that they like cats and are ready to make an effort to ensure that your visit is as comfortable as possible both for you and your cat!
Cats don’t like going off their home turf and for many cats going to the vet can be extremely stressful – as a result it's also often very stressful for owners.This isn't always the case, but if you are to care for your cat properly then you will need to visit your vet at least once a year.
The International Society of Feline Medicine, has produced a standard which practices in several countries can sign up to show that they are truly cat friendly and you can find a list of practice members here http://www.icatcare.org/cat-campaigns-cat-friendly-clinic/accredited-clinics.
What Are The Signs of a Cat Friendly Clinic?
Waiting room: Many clinics offer a separate waiting area for cats, away from the stress of the sight, sound and smell of dogs. This is has big benefits – ask your vet if they offer this. Having shelves, benches or chairs so that the cat basket can be raised off the floor also helps by making the cats feel more secure. Avoiding visual contact between cats, even with a clean towel or blanket over the cat basket, will also help cats relax. As an alternative to a separate area in the waiting room, some clinics offer cat-only consultation times to avoid cats having to be in a dog-filled waiting room.
Attitude of the staff: All staff in the vet clinic, from the vet through to the receptionist should know and understand the differences with cats and you can also tell a lot by the greeting you receive, the questions that are asked, and suggestions that are given when you first go to the veteniary clinic.
Cat information: Look out for information about cats in the vet clinic too. Does the clinic provide leaflets and help on things like transporting your cat, giving your cat medications, feeding and the like.
If the clinic has a positive attitude towards cats and the staff are proactive in minimising stress, this should do a lot to make the cat’s visit much more relaxing.
Cat Friendly Pheromones
The clinic may well use synthetic feline pheromones (these are chemicals very similar to those produced by the cat itself to communicate with other cats) to help make cats feel more relaxed. You won’t smell these but your clinic may use a Feliway® diffuser plugged into a socket, or a spray in the waiting room and consultation room. You should look for a clean waiting room and consultation room, but preferably without an overpowering smell of disinfectant (which could be stressful for a cat).
Getting your cat out of the cat carrier
Your vet will need to examine your cat, but may first simply open the door or hatch of the cat carrier. While talking to you, your vet will see if the cat will come out of the carrier by itself. He or she may even be able to do some of the examination while the cat is still in its carrier. Sometimes a cat will not voluntarily come out, and your vet may need to lift them out – however, this should always be done very gently and with respect. It can sometimes be helpful to have plenty of bedding in the carrier so that both the bedding and cat can be lifted out together.
Vets and nurses who know how to approach cats well adopt the ‘less is more’ approach. Being animals that take flight to avoid danger, they can panic if they’re restrained very firmly and realise they cannot escape. The art of cat examination is to do the minimum, to get as much done as you can, confidently and gently, without too much restraint, and to leave anything that may upset the cat until the very end. Avoiding direct eye contact with the cat (and doing a lot of the examination with the cat facing away from the vet) also helps to reduce stress, as does taking breaks and letting the cat find where they are most relaxed (even on a windowsill or on the floor for example). A rubber mat on the table (or the cat’s bedding or blanket) is extremely helpful to avoid a slippery surface that the cat has to stand on.
Cat comfort at the Vets
Many of the other things which make a veterinary clinic cat friendly will be going on behind the scenes, such as comfortable cages (with warm cosy bedding and places to hide). Little things can and do make a big difference so don't be afraid to ask your vet if you can have a look at where your cat will be kept if he or she needs to stay in the clinic overnight
Good hygiene at the Vets
Hygiene is very important and the reception area and consulting rooms should be clean and well maintained. All the staff should be wearing clean uniforms, and should be courteous and well trained. The clinic should be well ventilated and largely odour-free. If this isn't the case then it should act as a red flag.
Some Vets will have additional qualifications that indicate that they have a special interest in cats and achieved a higher level of understanding and knowledge in the feline area. These qualifications vary between different countries.
Ask the clinic about how cat friendly they are - they should be only too pleased to tell you!
It is worth finding out some important bits of information at the outset, which may be helpful to you:
• Arrangements for emergencies: Find out what these are, whether they are acceptable to you, and how you would contact the clinic in an emergency (when it is closed).
• Check what facilities the clinic has to offer – things like access to an X-ray machine, an ultrasound machine or laboratory tests.
• Check what happens when a cat is anaesthetised and what monitoring equipment is used
• Check what dental equipment is available for cleaning teeth, X-raying teeth and removing teeth if needed
Your vet should be pleased to talk to you about all these things and what their clinic has to offer, and the measures they have taken specifically for cats.