Fight for felines—and their healthcare

Fight for felines—and their healthcare

Educating clients can increase feline visits to your veterinary practice
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May 01, 2009
By dvm360.com staff

Both camps—cat people and dog people—can argue passionately about why their favorite animal makes a better pet. Dogs adore owners boisterously; cats are calm companions. But regardless of these preferences, pet owners with at least one dog and one cat in their homes report that they're more attached to their dogs than their cats by a 3-to-1 margin, according to research published in the February 15, 2008 issue of JAVMA. Plus, 33 percent of pet owners surveyed in that study believe it's more important to take a dog to the veterinarian for a wellness exam than a cat. This belief may help explain why even though more cats live with American families, most veterinary patients are dogs.

It's time to increase efforts in educating cat owners. When clients hear and see the importance you place on feline health, they'll come to view their cats more like family members and they'll become loyal visitors to your clinic. Tutor cat owners on the following four lessons, and you'll be well on your way to fostering better feline relations.

1. Teach that preventive medicine matters. Indoor and outdoor cats need to see a veterinarian at least once a year for wellness visits. They need their vaccinations, yes, but these visits aren't only about shots. Healthy pet checks provide you the chance to catch potential problems early and also to discuss other topics. For example, you can explain that a one- or two-pound increase in a cat's weight can be detrimental to its health. You can discuss how even living-room cats are at risk for diseases associated with fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes because these pests get inside all the time.

2. Make it a team effort. Laura Dietrich, practice manager at Alamo Feline Health Center in San Antonio, emphasizes that while doctors present most feline health information, it's up to team members to reinforce that message. "At times, clients give staff members more credibility than the veterinarian," she says. "They ask questions like, 'Do I really need to do what the veterinarian said?'"

Your team members' response? A strong "yes." And they should support a strong feline message at every stage of the visit. While technicians and veterinary assistants take patient histories, they should explain why they're asking questions about weight and lifestyle. As clients are checking out, receptionists should encourage them to comply with recommendations for flea and tick prevention, diet, and other healthcare products as well as recheck visits.

3. Bring attention to signs of illness. To the untrained eye, an ill cat might look like the picture of health. Help clients learn the clues that indicate their cats aren't feeling up to snuff, including changes in food and water consumption, grooming and sleeping habits, litter box use, activity, behavior, and the sound and frequency of meows.

4. Decrease veterinary-visit stress. The thought of all the clawing and resisting that comes with a cat into a carrier is enough to stop clients in their tracks—and keep them away from your practice. So teach clients how to foster a cat-crate love affair. Put the carrier someplace where the pet can easily go in and out of it. This allows the cat to become familiar with the crate and leave behind its own scent. Sneak treats into the crate. When the cat enters, it'll find an enticing surprise and associate the carrier with a positive experience.

Regardless of whether you're a dog or cat person, you want to offer all pets the best care. Our furry friends deserve it, don't they? Clients and their pets depend on you for it.

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To download a related client handout, see "5 mouser myths debunked" in the related links below.

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