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Ask a cat owner what their least favorite caretaking task is and you’ll hear one of two things: cleaning the litter box or going to the veterinarian. Cat ownership is usually a pleasant experience, but these two jobs consistently evoke procrastination and excuses due to their distasteful or challenging nature. No wonder cats visit the vet half as often as their dog counterparts.
It’s difficult to blame cats for disliking the vet. Considering the car ride in the cramped carrier, the cacophony of a mixed waiting room where dogs may be poking their head into the front window, and the anxiety of being prodded on a cold stainless steel exam table, the typical cat exam is a case study in how to maximize a cat’s stress level.
Owners of exceptionally stressed-out cats respond in one of three ways: finding a home-visit veterinarian, skipping visits entirely or seeking out a vet who has a special interest in feline medicine. The idea of a cat-friendly clinic has gained momentum in recent years, with owners willing to travel further to find a vet who is sensitive to the unique medical and handling needs of cats.
Making the veterinary office a more welcoming place for cats has long been the goal of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, a voluntary veterinary organization that provides cat-centric continuing education and practice recommendations. In January, the AAFP unveiled the Cat Friendly Practice certification, which clinics can obtain in order to demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards for feline care.
According to the Cat Friendly Practice Guide for Owners, “A Cat Friendly Practice has
created an environment that is less threatening to cats and meets the cat’s unique needs.” Applicants must meet a minimum set of cat-specific criteria in 10 areas, including waiting room behavior, feline handling, pain management, and preventive care by life stage.
Within one month of the program’s unveiling, 61 clinics across the country had already completed the certification process. To find a certified clinic in your area, check out the directory on the AAFP website.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small-animal veterinarian from San Diego. When she's not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at PawCurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang's blogs have previously appeared on The Daily Cat.