Dr. Jeff Kubinec holds Brio, a patient at his newly recognized Cat Friendly Practice.

After months of preparation, Thunder Bay Veterinary Hospital has become the first practice in Northwestern Ontario to be recognized as a Cat Friendly Practice by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The hospital decided to pursue this designation in response to the findings of a veterinary care usage study that found the following: Almost twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian. Of the cats that do visit the veterinarian, they average 26 per cent fewer visits than dogs. Fifty-eight per cent of cat owners report that their cat hates going to the veterinarian. Thirty-eight per cent of cat owners report that they get stressed just thinking about bringing their cat to the veterinarian. Fifty-six per cent of cat owners would have brought their cat to the vet more often had they known it could have helped to prevent problems.

Stress is one of the top reasons for lack of or skipped visits for cats. Becoming a Cat Friendly Practice is a method of minimizing the stress on feline patients.

The practice team has been trained in recognizing subtle signs of stress in cats and has learned methods that serve to lessen the anxiety that feline patients may experience getting to the veterinary hospital as well as during their health visit, including feline-friendly handling techniques.

There are also special environmental advantages that are present in the practice such as feline-only waiting rooms, examination rooms, and hospital wards, that further reduce contact with dogs and other stressors while at the hospital. Calming feline pheromones are also used in these areas.

The hospital provides web-based resources (www.tbvet.com) to clients in order to help them prepare for bringing their cat in for their health visits. These resources assist clients with kennel selection for their pet as well as with making the journey to the hospital more comfortable for their feline friends.

The practice has further expanded its health-care program for cats, producing individualized preventive care plans for each patient. As a part of becoming Cat Friendly, it has also discontinued performing feline declaws, becoming the first practice in the area to eliminate offering this procedure to clients.

It is recommended that even cats that are strictly indoors should come in for a preventive health visit at least once yearly.

Becoming a Cat Friendly Practice acknowledges the special needs that cats have and facilitates making their health visits less stressful and a more positive experience for both cats and their owners. Information regarding the Cat Friendly Practice Program can be found at www.catvets.com.

— Submitted by Jeffrey Kubinec

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