Veterinary technician's confession: "I avoided cats"


A compliment from one practice client gave me the confidence to get closer to fractious felines.

Anyone who knows me thinks of me as an animal person, but not necessarily a cat person. I thought I was violently allergic to cats for years, and I avoided them. Of course, my job as a veterinary technician requires me to handle cats every day. After cautiously approaching my first hands-on cat encounter a year ago, I found that I can handle the sneezing and discomfort as long as I'm careful. Of course, I'm still very respectful of felines. After all, they have claws, teeth, and a temperament that can change without warning.

While I was on an externship at another practice, I had an opportunity to handle two Bengal felines. They were gorgeous. Their exquisite coloring, unique conformation, and curious, happy attitudes made me ache to touch these young cats. Initially they were sedated for surgery, but later I petted them—even when they were awake. I started seeing cats in a new light. When I went back to work at my hospital, I brought my newfound courage with me.

My veterinarian is very understanding when I sometimes hesitate to restrain cats. She takes the lead and offers me verbal cues so the client's visit is seamless and trouble-free.

Recently, we examined two cats from a rescue society. One of them was feral. The clients suggested sedating the cat so we could draw blood and clip the nails without worry of being bitten or clawed. I asked if we could try to handle the cat first without using any drugs.

My veterinarian grabbed a towel, and I turned the cat trap on end so the kitty slid out onto the exam table. We rolled the cat up in the towel so she could still breathe but her head was covered and we were protected. I restrained the cat while we slowly took each paw and clipped her long claws. We soothed the cat as we worked by talking to her in a gentle voice. She lay quietly. The clients marveled at how we worked as a team without stressing the cat. We were able to pull blood from her and finally place her back into a carrier.

No fur flew, and no felines were harmed in the making of this appointment. Our clients were amazed and thanked my veterinarian profusely for handling the cat with care. They then turned to me and told me I was a good technician with a great technique for handling cats. In my mind I shouted, "No, I'm still scared!" even as I thanked the clients for their kind words.

Their compliments gave me confidence to take with me the next time I need to handle a feral cat. I know when I'm with my veterinarian, we can overcome any problem by working together.

I always love my job, but I get an extra special feeling when I get to help an animal that might otherwise have had a bad experience visiting the veterinarian. It's good when clients notice how hard we work.

Kyle Wendy Skultety, LVT, CVT, is a general practice technician for Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, N.J. Visit to discuss this article.

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