“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*Cats and Dogs Are Welcome Here!*

     I have been a veterinarian for over thirty years and during that time I have always been a dog and cat doctor. There are several reasons for this choice. First, I love dogs and cats and have some of my own. Second, they are the most popular family pets in West Michigan, so I have lots of potential patients out there. Last, I enjoy being around people who have dogs and cats too. We share a bond, in that we love the same things.

However, even though I really look forward to each dog and cat patient that comes to see me, they don’t always share the same sentiment. I understand. I really do. Who wants to visit someone who rudely invades your space and then pokes you with needles or, as we call it, performs an exam and gives vaccines?

We do a lot to sweeten the deal for dogs. We know most of them can be won over with tasty food. So, we have peanut butter and canned cheese on hand for a distraction. We also provide interesting toys and rawhide to chew.

Cats, on the other hand, are tougher customers. They ignore our treats and disdain our toys. We needed to do better! So, about three years ago, we went through the process of becoming a “Cat Friendly Practice” (CFP) through The Association of Cat Practitioners.

This is not a quick or simple process. The entire veterinary team went through training on cat behavior and low stress handling. We learned how to create an atmosphere and physical facility welcoming to cats. In total, there were 10 training modules and it took us 6 months to complete the training and earn the CFP designation.

We were reminded that cats aren’t arbitrarily stuck up or mean. They’re afraid. When a cat is afraid, they want to run and hide. If they can’t run, they will stand and fight. Now that we understand why they behave as they do, we can help.

First, we limit their exposure to any other pets when they come to our hospital. As soon as they arrive, they are taken into a quiet room where they can feel safe from the intrusion of other cats and dogs. Inside the room, we treat the air with a pheromone product that interacts with their brain chemistry to produce a calming effect.

If they come in a cat carrier (which I highly recommend), I allow them to come out on their own or simply remove the top and examine them inside the bottom of the carrier. I encourage them to “hide” in a towel or a kitty cuddly sack when I give them their physical. This allows them to feel safe and yet still be examined, vaccinated or have other procedures.

Once their visit is finished, they stay in the exam room until their owner is finished at the business desk and is ready to leave. Then they can make a quick exit back to the car without any lingering time in the lobby area.

I have discovered that these and other changes have greatly impacted the comfort of my feline patients and when the cats are happy, everyone involved is more at ease. If you’d like to know more about cat friendly practices, check out www.catvets.com/cfp for more information or better yet, schedule an exam for your cat and see for yourself!

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