Author: Karen McGlothlin, DVM, PhD
When I was in my teens, my youngest brother “… found this kitten by the side of the road, can we keep it, please, please, please?!?” Our family had shared our world with several dogs up to that point, but this mysterious ditch kitten was our family’s first experience with the feline persuasion. We didn’t know much about cats, other than they needed some vaccinations, deworming, some tasty cat food and a litter box. After a few deliberations, a name was chosen – Sasha – and within a week, the kitten had become a part of the family, claiming my Dad’s lap as her most favorite place.
Of course, Sasha needed a veterinary check-up with all that went along with that. Full disclosure: we didn’t even think about the possible need for a cat carrier – I am honestly not sure we even knew they existed. Up until that point, our pet track line-up had consisted of medium to large mixed-breed dogs who shared the back seat with one of us kids when we took them to the veterinarian. My Mom, my little brother and I got in the car to take little Sasha to the veterinarian and Andy held her on his lap. Turns out, Sasha was not a big fan of the car ride! She dug her little claws into his forearms and shoulders, trying to climb him like a tree. After our arrival at the veterinary hospital, the adventure continued in the less-than-spacious waiting room, because Sasha was also not a fan of the two rambunctious dogs sharing bench space with us! Andy came home looking like he was on the losing end of a brawl, and Sasha was so bent out of shape that we didn’t see her for the next 12 hours or so.
Through the years (a little over 16 to be exact), Sasha’s place in our family remained solid, although her name evolved from Sasha to “Yurkat.” This was because my Dad was reluctant to believe that he was the cat’s favorite human and when she wasn’t on his lap, someone would inevitably ask “Where’s your cat?” and his response would inevitably be “That’s not my cat, that’s YOUR cat.” Although she graciously accepted her name change, one thing that she NEVER accepted with grace was her annual visit with her veterinarian – it was a challenge. Every. Single. Year. Even after my parents got her a cat carrier.
FELINE FOCUSED APPOINTMENT TIMES
I am sharing one of my family’s stories about this sweet cat because our experience is not unusual. There are several more similar experiences that I could relate, but they all take the same turn: a visit to our family’s veterinarian was a stressful event for our cat. Cats are the most popular pet in the United States, yet the numbers of visits that pet cats make to the veterinarian each year are far fewer than the numbers of veterinary visits made by pet dogs. Cat owners who have difficulty getting their cats into carriers, have to listen to them vocalize all the way to the veterinary clinic and back, and then have to console a fearful (and possibly aggressive) cat while at the veterinary clinic are often very reluctant to consider annual physical examinations, vaccinations and routine wellness bloodwork a priority due to all of the stress involved. Since cats are also masters at hiding illness or injury, putting off veterinary visits may also lead to discovering a life-threatening condition until it is too late to provide meaningful help.
Thankfully, these days there are alternatives to help make a veterinary visit more tolerable for cats. There are a variety of options, including feline-only hospitals and hospitals that practice feline-friendly handling and nursing techniques. In 2011 and 2012, The American Association of Feline Practitioners, in conjunction with The International Society of Feline Medicine published their recommendations/guidelines for feline-friendly handling techniques and feline-friendly nursing care techniques. These documents have been invaluable in helping veterinary hospitals establish ways to provide a more welcoming, less stressful atmosphere for their feline patients, allowing more comprehensive and regular veterinary care for some cats who may not have previously tolerated a visit to the veterinarian.
At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, our mission statement says it all, we are “Committed to building lifelong partnerships with pets and owners by focusing on the highest quality veterinary medicine, compassion, education, and prevention.” For all pets. On the second Tuesday of each month, we set aside the first half of the day for cats only. These Feline-Focused appointment times are available from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and we would love for you to take advantage of this opportunity for your cat. During our feline-focused hours, there are no canine appointments on the schedule. We provide fleece blankets and heated towels in the exam rooms, classical music is playing for a calming influence, Feliway diffusers are in use, and all vital signs are taken in the exam room. If you would be interested in scheduling an appointment for your cat (I know my Mom would have loved to have this option for Yurkat), please give us a call today.