Leading Off: Are you designated cat friendly?


Dr. Eliza Sundahl encourages all clinics to change their clinic culture when it comes to cats.

By now most veterinarians are aware of the concerning statistics presented to our profession about the status of feline care in the United States. There are more pet cats than dogs—10 million more—yet cats receive substantially less veterinary care.

Dr. Sundahl and Boo.

Studies have shown that cat owners often resist veterinary visits because they see how distressed their cats become with either the process of getting to the veterinarian or enduring what goes on once they are there. The studies also show that cat owners don't see the value of veterinary care for their cats so they don't appreciate the benefit of how good care can help their cats' quality of life, not to mention their own.


The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Cat Friendly Practice program was established to help all staff levels in a veterinary clinic see what can be done to provide better, less stressful care for cats. An online self-assessment checklist guides those applying through the necessary criteria, with links to detailed information for specific items. The program encourages staff members to become advocates for their feline patients and to keep the momentum of the program going in the practice.

Over the last two decades, the AAFP has been active in developing practice guidelines and position statements to help practitioners learn what is considered best practice when administering to our feline patients. The Cat Friendly Practice program uses recommendations from those guidelines and other industry standards as the basis for its medical and facility criteria. Those recommendations also help veterinarians in better advising their clients about pursuing their cats' care. The end result is win-win for everyone. When owners understand the need for services and when veterinary visits are made less stressful, owners will be more likely to get the care their cats need.


Why should a practice pursue designation as a Cat Friendly Practice? Why not just market separate waiting rooms or other easy-to-see things to the public? A true Cat Friendly Practice has changed the culture of the clinic to be more respectful of the cat.

While much of the checklist is devoted to what you have and what you do, the crux of the program is embracing an understanding of the cat's natural behaviors and needs and integrating that understanding into the practice environment. Developing strategies to handle a stressed cat is crucial. Learning to read a cat and recognize that its aggression is fear-based or that its inaction can indicate high stress is as important as providing the recommended items relative to equipment or procedures.

For more information about the Cat Friendly Practice or any of the other tools that AAFP has for veterinarians, visit the AAFP website at catvets.com. Find out how you can improve the care of your feline patients.

Eliza Sundahl, DVM, DABVP (feline practice)

AAFP Cat Friendly Practice Panel member

KC Cat Clinic

7107 Main St.

Kansas City, MO 64114

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