I CATCUR By steve dale
Steve Dale is a certified
animal behavior consultant.
He is a national newspaper
columnist (Tribune Content
Agency); heard on WGN
Radio, Chicago; host of the nationally syn-
dicated Steve Dale’s Pet World and author
of the e-book Good Cat, among others.
He’s a founder of the CATalyst Council,
and serves on the boards of the Winn
Feline Foundation and Tree House Humane
Society, Chicago. Check out his blog at
according to studies by the american veterinary Medical association and its U.s. Pet Ownership & demographics sourcebook, cat visits to the veterinarian have taken a free fall, plummeting about 30 percent over
the past decade. though cats outnumber dogs in america, veterinarians see
more dogs than cats. In this instance, cats aren’t landing on their feet.
That picture isn’t right. And as a
result, preventable diseases and ill-nesses have increased.
While there are assorted reasons
to explain the decline in feline veterinary visits, veterinarians themselves
have taken responsibility and, most
importantly, have done something
based on an idea first launched in
the U.K., the American Association
of Feline Practitioners kicked off its
Cat Friendly Practice Program in 2012.
“A part of the puzzle is that we have
to own the fact that veterinarians
have been a part of the problem,”
conceded Susan Little, d.V.M., AAFP
president. “but there’s no excuse for
that anymore. The AAFP Cat Friendly
Practices now give veterinarians all
the tools to make their practices
more cat friendly.”
Practices have to jump through
hoops to certify as cat friendly. And
certification encompasses a lot. “The
goal is to make the experience less
stressful for cats and their people,”
said Elizabeth Colleran, d.V.M., a past
Certified practices may have
a separate waiting room for cats
or usher cats into the exam room
quickly, so they’re not exposed to a
room of barking dogs. In the exam
room, staff is taught to move slowly
and speak quietly. Additional tips
for veterinarians range from dousing
themselves with or using the plug-in
version of Feliway (an analog of a
comforting pheromone) to cat-han-
of course, there’s much more
to being certified as a Cat Friendly
Practice. Put simply, while there are
differences from vet practice to practice, all Cat Friendly Practices have
the following in common:
✓ Training s Taff To “Think
ca T”: Cats are not small dogs, and
they should be treated using skills
specific to cats.
✓ minimizing fear: Aggressive
handling, for example, only intensi-fies fear.
✓ Paying a TTen Tion To needs
sPecific To ca T owners: If people bringing the cat to the veterinarian are anxious — for whatever reason
— it’s a good bet the cat will pick up
on that anxiety.
“We rolled out the program
without public fanfare because we
wanted to enlist enough practices
so people might actually find a Cat
Friendly Practice; now we’re about
there,” Colleran said.
She predicted that by year-end,
more than 2,000 veterinary practices
will have that distinction, with many
more waiting to be approved.
AAFP has begun to study the
most important question: Are practices designated as cat friendly truly
friendlier to cats? And have cat owners and the cats themselves responded positively?
“oh yes!” cheered Colleran, who
some call the Queen of Cat Friendly,
as she has been a passionate cheer-
leader of certification within the vet-
erinary profession. “While we’re only
now compiling data, I can tell you
many Cat Friendly Practices report
seeing more cats.”
And, there’s no way veterinarians
can help pets they don’t see. The Cat
Friendly Practice Program — even for
practices without the designation —
has forced the veterinary profession
to think differently about cats.
Cats shouldn’t be an afterthought;
they merit all the respect afforded to
their canine cousins.
to learn more about the Cat
Friendly Practices Program, visit
the american association of Feline
Practitioners at catvets.com.