As a vet student, I’m intrigued by the growing shift toward feline-friendly clinics. Many clients own both dogs and cats, and I can understand how it may be more convenient to take both to the clinic on the same day. (Hey, that’s exactly what my parents do with our chocolate lab and tuxedo kitty.) However, cats and dogs ARE different. Cats may be predators, but they’re also preyed upon—hence their propensity for hiding and their preference for quietness and slow movements. Dogs are social pack animals, who gain comfort from their humans (even if they’re nervous in a new place like a clinic), and who are generally much more socialized to strangers than cats. Feline-friendly clinics appreciate these species differences and modify existing procedures to reduce stress on the cat and to improve the staff’s ability to work safely with each animal. I’ve been lucky enough to work in a feline-friendly clinic, certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and it’s been fun to learn ways to make more kitties happy to visit the vet.
For example, feline-friendly clinics designate one or two exam rooms specifically for cat use only—no dogs allowed. The absence of dog scent aside, these rooms further reduce feline stress because they may be equipped with diffusers that disseminate a synthetic version of the normal pheromones given off by cats as they rub their cheeks against people or furniture; this pheromone serves as a chemical marker that signifies safety, contentment, and familiarity. It may sound crazy to some readers, but I’ve seen first-hand how much calmer and relaxed these cats are. But perhaps most importantly, the staff members of certified feline-friendly clinics are required to take a certain amount of continuing education credits to ensure that all employees stay up-to-date with the best methods of feline handling and medicine.