Is your cat a scaredy cat when he goes to the vet? Most cats are. But veterinarians are trying to minimize that fear by setting up "cat friendly" veterinary practices. For some vets, that means more than separating cats from dogs in the waiting room.
What is a cat friendly, or feline friendly, vet office?
A cat friendly vet's office should definitely include a separate waiting room for dogs and cats, but it can also mean that the practice makes other specific accommodations for cats, like having a special exam room that is designed to make cats feel more comfortable. The exam rooms may have scratching posts, a cat condo, a couple of shelves attached to the wall for kitty to hop around on. Maybe some treats, cat-attractive toys, and/or special cat nip to both delight and, later, relax your cat.
Cushions and scratching pads on exam table make kitties more relaxed. (Photo: The London Cat Clinic)
The exam table may have a soft layer of cushioning, like the one above, that a cat might like to knead. The office might have special exam equipment that is customized for cats. The vet might have a special "cat bag," like groomers use, to calm a cat down so that she can be examined, if that is necessary.
These are some of the office accommodations that can be made in a feline friendly practice.
Physical adaptations are great to make your cat feel more comfortable in a vet's office, but even more important is an understanding of behaviors that are unique to cats.
Cats are expressive creatures but their expressions are not always obvious (except when they enter a vet's office, where they will whine and howl 'til you get them out of there.) That's obvious!
Feline-friendly veterinarians and their staffs are especially knowledgeable about quirky cat behaviors like marking, stalking, howling, refusing to use litter boxes, etc., what they mean, and how to treat them. One might say they are 'cat readers.'
A certified "Cat Friendly Practice®"
Any vet can call his office 'feline friendly,' of course. But there is a certification program called "Cat Friendly Practice®" for veterinarians and their staffs that was established by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM). It is a special designation for those veterinary practices which have taken special steps to accommodate cats in their practices. These steps encompass everything from the design of the practice's waiting room, check-in processes, cat examination rooms, to special training in cat behavior and feline diseases targeted to veterinarians and all staff that encounter felines.
A Cat Friendly Practice is not a medical specialty, per se. Its programs for veterinarians are more like continuing education programs for vets and their staffs, as opposed to courses in veterinary medicine taken by the "feline veterinarian," discussed below. Though behavioral aspects of feline pets are the focus of the training offered by the AAFP, the program also provides research and treatment updates to professional members.
Feline Veterinarian Specialists
Vets that specialize in feline medicine are similar to equine veterinarians or avian veterinarians, in that they treat only one animal species are credentialed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in one of 40 veterinary specialties. As with other veterinary specializations, the AVMA requires additional hours of medical study, a medical internship, and passing specialized examinations in feline veterinary care, beyond a general veterinarians degree. A feline friendly vet's office may not have an AVMA licensed feline specialist on staff, but it can still provide excellent veterinary services for your cat.
Should You Consider Going To A Feline Friendly Vet?
You bet! Unless your cat is fairly comfortable visiting your current vet's office, you have nothing to lose by going to a good feline friendly practice. Of course, you should check the place out before you go. First, look-up 'feline friendly vets' online. Check out each website and see how each practice describes itself.
To what extent is the office feline friendly?
Is the office certified as a Cat Friendly Practice?
Whatever you think will be important for your cat to get the best emotional and physical treatment is important. If you can't find it, call the clinic and ask. It's YOUR cat!
* I have learned of veterinarians who focus on canine care, but know of no organizations that foster this specialization.