As soon as you enter the world of cat ownership one of the first things you’ll do is register your cat with a veterinary practice. If you’ve picked up a new kitten you’ll need to book them in for their first vaccinations and if you’ve rescued an older cat you’ll still need to get them booked in with a vet for their booster vaccinations, health checks and to make sure they’ve got their preventive healthcare treatments like flea and worm protection.
So, when looking to sign your cat up to a veterinary practice what should you be looking for and how do you know that the vets you’re signing your feline friend up to is the best place for them?
Have a look at these tips for finding a cat savvy vet in your area
Cat-only vet practices
Photo credit: Swan Street Vets
These are becoming much more common now and in most major cities in the UK you can now find a cat only vet practice.
Cat only vet practices have such great advantages for you and your much loved moggy as they only see cats. This means your cat won’t have the added stress of encountering dogs in the clinic (which is known to be one of the most worrying things for cats visiting the vets) and the vets and nurses who work at these clinics are usually cat enthusiasts who hold extra qualifications in feline medicine, surgery and behaviour.
A cat only vet practice will be purpose built and fully equipped for all things feline and usually they have specialised equipment just for cats. In particular the cat only hospital wards are laid and thought out to cater specifically to cats needs. Often these cat hospital wards are designed using “cat condos” like these (see photo) so that whilst your cat is in the hospital ward they can still exhibit natural behaviours like being able to climb and go up and down on multiple levels.
Mobile cat clinics
Photo courtesy of The Coastal Cat Vet
These are also on the up and offer a great alternative for cats whose owners want their cat to see a specialist cat vet but perhaps aren’t able to travel far to go to one.
Mobile cat clinics are usually a purpose built van that comes to your home and the consultations are usually conducted within the home. Again, the vets and nurses who work in mobile cat only practices tend to be cat lovers and have chosen to specifically work with cats. They will often have further qualifications in feline medicine, surgery or behaviour and will be particularly skilled at conducting procedures such as vaccinations, taking blood samples, checking blood pressure etc inside your home.
For cats who are very fearful of the veterinary clinic or those who get car sick or hate travelling these mobile cat vets are a god send. Being able to keep your cat within their home and having all their home comforts around them whilst being examined by the vet is the ideal situation for most cats. Euthanasia carried out within your home can also be the most peaceful and comforting way to say goodbye if that time does come and so mobile veterinary clinics are well suited to home euthanasia services.
If your cat needs surgery the vans are equipped to do surgeries, x rays, ultrasounds and have all the equipment needed to treat your cat within their van!
A certified Cat Friendly Clinic
If you can’t find a cat only vet practice or a mobile cat vet practice near to you then the next best thing would be to find a certified Cat Friendly Clinic. Cat Friendly Clinic is a scheme which was set up by International Cat Care (ICatCare.org) to encourage veterinary professionals to make their mixed veterinary practices more friendly for cats. Often cats find the vets a very stressful experience and by altering some things within the practice they can make cats visits to the vets a more positive experience.
Cat Friendly Clinic status is awarded to vet practices who can show they have met the minimum requirements as set out by the standards in the scheme. There are three levels – bronze, silver and gold.
Gold standard Cat Friendly Clinic is only awarded to practices who have a separate cat hospital ward (not shared with dogs or any other animals) and they must also have a separate area in the waiting room for cats where they cannot see or feel threatened by dogs. They must also have a cat only consultation room – this means that no other animals are seen in this room and so cats will never have to be placed in a room which has just been used by a dog. Cats are so reliant on scent to help them visualise the world around them and the smell of a dog lingering in a consult room can cause a great deal of stress to a cat who is then brought into that room.
Cat Friendly Clinics also have to have specific equipment, pheromone plug ins and many other considerations have to be factored into the way the practice caters for feline patients.
Most importantly all levels of Cat Friendly Clinic must adhere to the gentle handling and no scruffing criteria. Scruffing (when as person holds and restrains a cat using the skin on the back of the cats neck) is known to cause stress and negative responses (Moody et al., 2020). All staff at Cat Friendly Clinics are required to use other more humane methods to restrain cats.
Vet practices who are part of the Cat Friendly Clinic scheme will display this logo on their website and usually have it displayed in the clinic window too. So look out for the logo! For more information on the scheme and to find out where your nearest Cat Friendly Clinic is go to www.catfriendlyclinic.org.
As with normal vet clinics, most Cat Friendly Clinics will be covered by major insurance companies such as Waggel or other providers. We'll cover how to choose the right insurance cover for your cat in another article.
Cat specialist veterinary surgeons
As well as feline only veterinary practices and Cat Friendly Clinics there are also vets who have completed further qualifications which give them Feline Specialist status. You can find a vet who is a specialist in Feline Medicine by checking the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website and search for an RCVS Specialist in Feline Medicine.
If there aren’t any feline specialists in your area you can always look on your veterinary practices website and check if any of the vets hold any further certificates in feline medicine, surgery or behaviour (generally if they have the letters ISFM after their name this means they’ve undertaken a feline based course with the International Society of Feline Medicine). There are also lots of veterinary nurses out there with further certificates in feline nursing and behaviour (again look for the letters ISFM after their name).
If you are regularly visiting a veterinary practice you can also request to see a specific vet or vet nurse. If your cat seems less stressed with a particular vet or nurse or you’ve seen a vet or nurse has an interest in or qualifications in feline based studies then you can ask to see this particular member of the team. When you ring up to book your appointment just ask for the person you would like to see (just bear in mind that if the appointment is an emergency appointment you may have to see whichever vet is free that day!).
Choosing a vet practice for your fur baby is hard but hopefully with these tips you are now well equipped with the knowledge to be able to find the perfect practice for your puss!
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