‘We recognise that because of their unique nature and needs, taking cats to visit a veterinary clinic can be very stressful, both for cats and owners. The Cat Friendly Clinic programme is designed to help address these issues’ https://catfriendlyclinic.org/
Q: How did the Cat Friendly Clinic Scheme come about?
Cats are both predator and pray animals. Historically they were kept to control mice and rats, and as such have not been bred to cope well with radical and sudden changes in their environment. As a result, cats do not deal well with situations they perceive as stressful such as strong restraint, strange environments, and exposure to perceived threatening situations such as loud noises, strange smells, and other animals that they feel could harm them.
Despite best intentions, the set-up of veterinary practice traditionally exposed cats to many of these fearful situations, leading them to display stress behaviours both in hospital and once home with their owners. Research revealed that because of this, many cat owners were tending to limit veterinary visits only to absolute emergencies. As a result, many cats were missing out on the early detection and treatment of major health problems through regular veterinary check-ups.
Stress in hospitalised cats can also instigate non-eating and a cascade of adverse processes which complicate diagnostics and prolong recovery from diseases. Reducing stress within feline practice is beneficial therefore to clinical outcome.
In recognition of the above, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the veterinary division of ‘International Cat Care, asked could it be possible to make cats feel safe and secure within the veterinary environment? They considered what factors could be put into place which would ease a visit to the vets for both the cat and the owner. Eventually these factors became the core assessment criteria for the Cat Friendly Clinic.
Q: So what sets a cat friendly clinic apart from a regular veterinary practice?
‘As part of the award (we) have promised to handle and treat cats with understanding, gentleness, and respect and to make every effort to make the visit to the clinic as stress-free for cats and their owners as possible’. https://catfriendlyclinic.org/
In 2018, Blackwater Vets became a silver level accredited Cat Friendly Clinic with the aim of offering a cat friendly veterinary experience for every cat and cat owner that entered our doors. We already were working diligently to minimise stress on cats through keeping the cat areas quiet, use of calming pheromones, gentle handling, and appropriate housing. Working towards accreditation allowed us to develop our potential to be as cat friendly as practically possible. Additional measures we introduced include creating a dog-free waiting area and supplying basket covers to help cats feel less threatened. We practice our pledge to use careful and gentle handling techniques, sensitive to cats’ individual needs, personality and emotional states and our hospital ward is arranged so that cages do not face other cages, and patients are housed high up with hide outs so that they may feel safer.
Owner education is an important part of the scheme, with the ISFM recognising that reducing feline stressors from the very outset vastly improves the owners experience also. It was important therefore that staff members working within a cat friendly clinic were able to advise and direct owners to resources on reducing stress for their cat before and after their visit to the vets, enabling owners almost to form an extension of the veterinary team. At Blackwater Vets we provide teaching and resources on our website www.blackwatervets.co.uk. Tips include appropriate carriers to use, stress reduction tips on how to ready cats for transport and caring for and medicating cats once they arrive home from the clinic.
Q: How can I find my most local cat friendly clinic?
The website www.catfriendlyclinic.org has full owner information on the Cat Friendly Clinic scheme and lists all cat friendly veterinary clinics across the country. As one of very few Cat Friendly Clinics within the Colchester area, Blackwater Vets is proud to offer cat owners in West Mersea and the surrounding villages the rare option of accessing a cat friendly clinic literally on their doorstep.