An AAFP program is earning high marks for helping veterinarians transform cat visits in their practices
Michael Petty, DVM, CVPP, CVMA, CCRT, CAAPM, had a hunch he could make cats that visited his veterinary hospital more comfortable with a few changes. “I had read several articles about cat handling and when I implemented the suggested practices, I immediately saw results.”
Based on those positive results, Dr. Petty wanted additional support and resources to make the veterinary visit a more positive, reduced stress experience for his cat clients. That was one reason that Petty, owner of Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital in Canton, Michigan, enrolled in the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s (AAFP) Cat Friendly Practice® (CFP) program. (Visit: catvets.com/cfp)
“The second reason was [to increase overall healthcare for cats]. It seemed the only time cats came in for a veterinary visit was for kitten vaccines, when they were sick, and for euthanasia when they were very old,” says Petty. “I wanted to make my practice more attractive to cat owners so that we could improve feline healthcare by diagnosing and intervening as needed to make cats’ lives better.”
Elevating care for cats
Established by the 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 the entire veterinary team. The program consists of ten topic areas that help guide veterinary practices in setting the standard of providing optimum feline care through an online self-assessment. Those topic areas are:
- Staff Training & Continuing Education | Client Communications
- Veterinary Practice Premises | Waiting Area
- Feline Handling & Interactions With Clients
- Examination Room(s) | Clinical Records
- Hospitalization & Boarding of Cats
- Pain Management | Operating Room & Anesthesia
- Surgical Equipment | Dentistry
- Diagnostic Imaging | Laboratory Facilities
- Treatment | Health & Safety
- Feline Preventive Healthcare Individualized by Life Stages
The program has received overwhelmingly positive marks. According to a 2017 Cat Friendly Practice® Survey, the program received a 99 percent satisfaction rate among participants. Other highlights from CFP respondents included:
- 98 percent would recommend the CFP program to other veterinary professionals.
- 92 percent state the CFP program has positively impacted their team morale when handling, treating, and caring for cats. “Many practices commented they are now more confident when working with cats, and their whole team has adopted cat-friendly techniques to reduce stress during the visit,” said AAFP CEO Heather O’Steen.
- 91 percent reported an improvement in feline knowledge and care among practice team members. “Many practices noticed a great improvement in staff understanding of feline behavior, feline-friendly handling, and ability to read a cat’s body language.”
- 80 percent received positive feedback from clients on implementing the program.
- 80 percent have increased visits because they are a Cat Friendly Practice®.
- 79 percent report increased practice revenue since implementing the CFP program.
- 75 percent state the acquisition of new feline patients because of their CFP designation.
- 61 percent of Cat Friendly Practices® report a reduction in injuries when handling cats.
Becoming Cat Friendly
Arbor Pointe is now a Gold level Cat Friendly Practice® and Dr. Petty is a member of the Cat Friendly Practice® Advisory Council. The process to become a Cat Friendly Practice® was time consuming, but there were no overwhelming challenges, says Petty. For example, Arbor Pointe doesn’t have a separate waiting area for cats, so they simply started scheduling cat appointments when they didn’t have to encounter any dogs during intake.
“I think the biggest change was educating my support staff,” says Petty. “I am good at disciplining myself to learn new things, but I have a hard time asking my staff to do so. So I took them all to an AAFP conference to start the feline education process and it really opened their eyes up to the ‘cat world’ in a different and very positive way.” (Visit catvets.com/education)
As a Cat Friendly Practice®, Arbor Pointe veterinarians and staff had the knowledge and resources to make cats comfortable, and the owners saw this right away, says Petty. “Cat clients were good at interpreting our attitude toward cat visits. It went from ‘Oh, no, a cat appointment’ to ‘Yay, a cat appointment.’”
Arbor Pointe uses more Feliway products as a result of their feline focus. “And we bought a dedicated cat scale for the exam room to minimize their time in the rest of the clinic. The only thing we did for exam rooms is to make one dedicated to cat exams only. If we are really busy, sometimes we will use the cat room for consults, but no dogs allowed!”
For more information, visit catvets.com/cfp.