A cat friendly clinic is not just any veterinary surgery that likes cats. The term Cat Friendly Clinic is a recognised accreditation given to veterinary practices that meet certain criteria, by the International Society for Feline Medicine, and it is recognised by the veterinary profession as the gold standard of veterinary care for cats.
It has long been recognised by Feline specialists that taking a cat to the vets is generally stressful for them and vet practices that have the accreditation have assessed their practice and systems to make visits as stress free for cats as possible. This also means it’s less stressful for owners too!
Apart from the ethics of not wanting animals to feel stressed, reducing the stress that cats experience has been linked to improvements in both diagnosis and recovery.
Once a veterinary practice has undergone the initial assessment and become accredited as a Cat Friendly Clinic they must also meet ongoing criteria such as continuous learning and monitoring of the clinical outcomes of feline cases.
Staff training is an important part of the accreditation and staff must be trained to handle cats with care and respect at all times, which includes:
During handling, transferring to and from carriers and during examinations and procedures
Recognising and minimising fear and anxiety
Providing owners with information how they can reduce stress in their cats during the journeys to and from the vets
Avoiding the heavy restraining of cats and moving them by the back of their necks (scruffing)
Keeping odours, noise and bright lights at a minimum in the clinic
Cat Friendly Clinics must appoint at least one Cat Advocate, although it is desirable that all members of staff have received training on the specific needs of cats. The advocate is the staff member who will ensure that the conditions of the Cat Friendly status are maintained and implemented on a daily basis.
Owner education is also a big part of being a Cat friendly Clinic, and the staff at the clinic will spend time discussing issues with clients, offering advice and will also have a range of printed material available on topics such as choosing the right cat carrier and giving medication to cats.
Cats are generally stressed out when they come into close contact with dogs or sense that dogs are nearby, so Cat friendly Clinics have measures in place to provide a level of separation between the two species. This can be in the form of areas of the waiting room designated as cat only, cat only clinic times, cat only consultation rooms and separate cat wards.
There are also a number of criteria that need to be met in relation to the hospitalisation of cats, including the size and design of cat cages in the wards and the levels and type of equipment in the practice and their ability to carry out laboratory tests.
The Cat Friendly Clinic scheme enables owners to make an informed choice. If a practice is not a member of the scheme it does not mean that cat owners should avoid them or that they don’t have a caring attitude to cats. However, if a practice has invested both time and money to become accredited you will know that they take cat welfare seriously and your moggy is in safe hands.