Does your cat love going to the vet?
Does she relish the opportunity to jump into her carrier, ride in the car, and undergo an exam–plus shots?
If you answered yes… well, then, you don’t need this post, and I need to know your secrets!
The truth is, most cats don’t love vet visits. Most cats fear their carriers, fear the car ride, and fear the exam. That fear can manifest in all sorts of ways, from totally shutting down to aggressive behavior. None of that is good for your cat. It’s not good for the vet and the vet staff, and it’s not good for you.
This is important stuff because if your cat is terrified and behaving unlike her normal self, she might not get the greatest veterinary exam either. If the vet can’t lay his or her hands on your cat, something might get missed.
OK, so you’re probably thinking: Well, duh. But, what can I do about it?
Everyone knows cats need routine, preventative veterinary care, but if the experience is miserable or terrifying for all involved, it can be tempting to put it off. To reschedule it. To skip the shots this year.
To alleviate some of that distress and to make the experience even just a little bit better, we recently discovered the Cat Friendly Practice program from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and it’s made a big difference for my girls. I wanted to share our experience in case it helps you and your cat, too!
What is a Cat Friendly Practice?
Here’s the deal: Vet visits cause stress. We know this. The standards and practices that make up the Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) program work toward mitigating as much of that stress as possible.
Here’s what the organization has to say about CFP:
Established by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM), the Cat Friendly Practice® program is a global initiative designed to elevate care for cats by reducing the stress for the cat, caregiver, and also the entire veterinary team.
Sounds great, right? I want my cats to be handled with feline-friendly techniques, and I want their care team to be skilled in working with them in a stress-free (well, maybe stress-less) way.
The CFP designation indicates that a practice has taken specific steps to understand a cat’s unique needs AND they’ve taken steps to implement these feline-friendly standards.
Our CFP Experience
Last year, we needed to switch vets. We chose a CFP partly because we wanted Newt and Ripley to receive the best care possible in a cat-friendly environment and partly because we just loved the vet as soon as we met him!
That second piece would’ve been regardless of the CFP designation, of course, but part of why we loved him is, I believe, because he IS a cat-friendly practitioner. For one thing, before we officially switched, he allowed us to do meet-and-greets with him and his staff without an exam. That way, the cats could see the space, meet the people, and not have anything scary happen to them!
(Dog people: This is off-topic, but he did the same for our highly-sensitive dog, Cooper, which was life-changing. Read more about that here.)
During that initial meeting, he handled the cats minimally but gently. They had numerous spaces to “hide” in the exam room and were given total freedom to move and explore anywhere they wanted.
Meanwhile, their doc doled out treats while speaking in a super calm, soothing voice. While they never fully relaxed, they certainly were more relaxed than ever before.
At their first official checkup, the same continued. At no point did either cat totally freak out, even when Newtie had to have a blood draw.
Their vet told us that changing things around in their practice–a separate entrance for cats with a door that separates them from the dog lobby, pheromones plugged in, and so on–he’s noticed a huge difference in the cats. Just that dividing door even, he said, cut down on cats’ fear because they couldn’t hear the dogs barking anymore.
For veterinary practices, too, it makes a world of difference in client satisfaction. When we researched potential new practices, I checked out Facebook reviews, and theirs glowed: One even said that they appreciated the staff calling before their cat’s visit to talk about how to help him be calmer on arrival. Those things add up to healthier pets and happier clients!
Visit a Cat Friendly Practice
To find a Cat Friendly Practice, catvets.com provides a searchable database of more than 4,000 practitioners.
My advice? Find one that’s convenient to you and call to schedule a quick hello! The meet-and-greet we had with our new vet proved to be invaluable because we could ask questions and start the relationship before we needed him.
For more info on making the switch, check out “How to choose the perfect vet for your family,” which includes a list of 10 questions to ask a potential new vet.
Does your cat go to a Cat Friendly Practice?
Have your cats experienced a vet visit similar to Newt and Ripley? While they don’t love the vet still, I can honestly say it’s not as bad. I’d love to hear your experience with your cats at the vet. Do you go to a CFP? Have I left you with any questions about a CFP that I can try to answer? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!