Love for felines: A resolution your practice can keep

December 20, 2018
Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DABVP (feline practice)
Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DABVP (feline practice)

Dr. Elizabeth Colleran is the owner and Hospital Director of two exclusively feline practices and is an ABVP Diplomate in Feline Practice. She participated in the 2013 Bayer Veterinary Care and Usage Study 3 Feline Findings. Prior to veterinary school, she worked in Sales and Marketing Management for IBM where she worked with Fortune 500 companies to streamline internal networks. Her passions are her crazy husband, two equally crazy Burmese cats, bicycling and Indian cuisine.

Dont go poofy-tailed with fear of New Years resolutions for you and your veterinary team. Try on this sleek, feline-flavored approach to make kitties more comfortableand you feel accomplished.

The time to make your practice more cat-friendly is right MEOW ... sorry, we couldn't help ourselves. (Photo credits: James Thew/adobe.stock.com [fireworks], fantom_rd/adobe.stock.com [cat])Most of us have never met a New Year's resolution we couldn't regret (or forget) not fulfilling. So, instead of big goals we're doomed to fail, this year pick “Cat Love” for your theme and set a gradual feline-friendly process of discussing, trying and revising processes in your clinic.

Resolution 1: Stop to talk cats

At your next monthly/weekly staff meeting, discuss who cats are and why they experience a visit to your practice so differently than dogs. Assign a staff person (we all know who you “cat people” are) to talk to the team about cats' sensory, emotional and behavioral needs. Imagine your establishment from the point-of-view of a feline patient:

  • How does their broad range of hearing amplify a slammed door, a barking dog, a phone ring and conversations?
  • How does their remarkable sense of smell experience a wet dog?
  • How does moving quickly arouse the hunter in them?
  • How does it feel to these territorial solitary beings to take them out of their home range?

Resolution 2: Get cats into exam rooms fast

Pick one part of the practice experience and strategize how to improve it.

For example, between now and the next staff meeting, you could take cat patients immediately into exam rooms, where sounds, smells and sights are less arousing. At the next meeting, you can talk about what you did and how it manifested in the cat patients' behavior.

Resolution 3: Give cats time to get comfy

At that same meeting, you'll pick another small step to add to the first one.

For example, once a cat patient is in the exam room, the team member who accompanies the client will put the carrier on the floor and open the carrier door before leaving. In most cases, the cat will willingly come out and begin to explore a quiet room with only her beloved owner present. This valuable acclimation step reduces arousal for the territorial creature removed from her home range.

Resolution 4: Keep cats in the exam room

For your third staff meeting, you'll discuss the impact of your first steps and how to improve on them.

Finally, your third goal will unfold in this meeting. You might decide to decrease the number of interventions or treatments to do in “the back” with the owner not present. Why is this important? The acclimation step (see “Resolution 3”) only counts for the exam room-not anywhere else in the building the feline hasn't set foot. Take advantage of acclimation: Collect blood, take blood pressure measurements, administer subcutaneous fluids, give vaccines and so on in the exam room with the owner present.

Remember the first thing your client asks you when you return a cat from “the back”? “Was that my cat screaming?” At which point you lie and say something like, “Absolutely not! She was a dream patient.”

Arousal is cumulative and a barrier to the best healthcare and outcomes. The exam room feels safer to your feline patients than anywhere with more strangers, barking dogs and dog smells-and too far from the beloved client.

Now you've taken gradual steps to improve the feline veterinary care experience. For each of the next meetings throughout the year, these steps will be on the agenda to review and discuss progress. Instead of regretting and forgetting, you will have kept your “Cat Love” New Year's resolutions. Who knows? Maybe that'll feel like such a breakthrough, even more plans for improving the feline patient experience will emerge.

Dr. Colleran is owner and hospital director of two exclusively feline practices and is an ABVP Diplomate in Feline Practice. Prior to veterinary school, she worked in sales and marketing management for IBM, where she helped Fortune 500 companies to streamline internal networks. Her passions are her crazy husband, two equally crazy Burmese cats, bicycling and Indian cuisine.