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Feline Fine

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Jane RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon

For the first time in many years, we are facing a cat-less future. As I wrote about earlier in the year – click here - we had to say a sad goodbye to Tillie after only 1 year with us. It felt like we had just lost LB again and much as we adore and oldie the time feels right to take care of ourselves and Hollie first before we start on another adventure with a feline friend.

This has brought up the issue of which vets we use. As I’m only in practice part-time and it’s not the closest to me I have been using vets just like a normal client! Although I’m sure the staff don’t see it like that as I’m quite high maintenance… sorry guys!

Our current vets were chosen because of the vets further skills and knowledge in feline medicine and we NEEDED those with Tillie and her list of issues. However, it’s a bit further away than closer vets so it brought up the dilemma of ‘should we stay or should we go?’

Hollie isn’t fussed where she goes as long as there are treats so its really up to me and I started to look at what was available around me and the increase in cat-only practices was really pleasing to see, of little use to me now but it brought back memories of when I worked in a cat only vets

What is ‘cat only’?

Back in the day when I was a student vet nurse, I covered some shifts in our cat only practice in a lovely area of west London. Everything was feline centered and we had our own practice cat! A very handsome Ginger Prince called Tom.

It was a newly opened practice and a dog had never set foot in the place! The kennels were all cat-sized and even the theatre had a smaller ‘cat appropriate’ table.

We only saw feline patients and while we had a lovely shop as the waiting room local residents were often surprised that they couldn’t pop in on a dog walk and bring their dog with them. We said it was ‘Cat Only’ and we meant ‘CAT ONLY’…


So you’re a cat specialist then?

It was around this time I began to spend a bit of time on the RCVS website so I could make sure I was advising the clients of the correct information. For so many ‘cat only’ meant ‘feline specialist’ and from an RCVS point of view, our main vet would not have been a specialist according to their definition.

While this may seem a little pedantic it’s so important to explain clearly to clients who we are and what we do. Being feline only gave certain advantages but it didn’t mean a fast track to a low-cost specialist appointment!

This was in no way belittling the skills of the vet – she was amazing and her extra time with felines was really helpful especially with the many behaviour cases we saw. There were many phone calls where people were requesting a second opinion with us as we were ‘specialists’ so time was spent to ensure the client understood what we were and what we were not.

What does being ‘cat only’ mean for the patient?

I’ve clarified we only let cats on the premises and also that we weren’t staffed by an RCVS specialist so what did being ‘cat only’ really mean?

For the patients, it was a less stressful environment in the waiting room and in the kennel area. No dogs would come up and stick their nose into the front of the cat basket and there was no doggie smell to increase the stress of being in the kennels.

In many London practices it can be hard to have separate cat and dog kennel spaces and this practice although small could provide great cat only space that it couldn’t have achieved if dogs were also allowed. We know that the sight, sound and smell of dogs can be a big stressor for cats and this was totally removed.

It also meant there was space to indulge in cat focused items in the consult room and waiting room too. Shelves and chairs to put baskets on so they aren’t on the floor, a cat tree in the consult room so your cat could climb and feel safe during a consultation. Small cat toys like catnip mice and balls that would make a tasty if dangerous snack for dogs could be used without worry.

Building a community

For clients, it gave them space to just be…. A cat owner. No judgements, no stress, just get great care for their beloved pets. It can be hard being a cat owner and talking to people about your worries or fears. Dog owners regularly meet other like-minded people – part of dog walking is meeting the dog-owning community in your area. Without realising it you have a group of people to share doggie based news who are interested!

As a cat owner, you often don’t have that, your neighbours may see your cat but may not know it’s yours or may not want it in their garden. Many people dislike cats because they may toilet in their garden, or they attack birds.

This can make sharing fears or worries about your pet much harder and there is still the myth of the lonely spinster and her cat…. I recall being at a formal work function with my partner and as always someone asked for help with their cat… to which their husband turned around and said to me ‘I hate cats’… it’s not socially acceptable to say you hate many animals but apparently it is with cats…

Socially its seen as much more acceptable to have a dog than a cat in my experience and this can add to a cat owners stress at the vets if they feel they only have the 10-15 minutes with the vet to get through all their worries as they don’t want to talk in a waiting room full of dog owners.

When you make the whole practice feline focussed it really does change the relationship with so many cat owners. The practice feels like ‘theirs’ and they chat freely in the waiting room with other owners and make their own cat-based community.

 

Now if I could just find a ‘Peke only’ practice….

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