What a ‘cat-friendly’ veterinary experience looks like

A cat friendly veterinary experience

This member of the veterinary team extends a soft hand to invite the cat to initiate contact. This is a more cat-friendly and respectful approach rather than immediately picking up and restraining the patient. Credit: Elaine Carosa LVT, VTS (CP-Feline)

Although good cat health care sometimes requires a visit to the veterinary clinic, many components of a veterinary visit or stay can lead to negative experiences. The effects can be far-reaching for both the cat and the veterinary team. This may include distress and a prolonged recovery from illness for the cat. For the veterinary team, this could involve risks of misleading clinical and test results, potential infection, and further difficulties handling the cat at future visits. Mounting evidence indicates that a first vet visit can affect a young animal for life.

A cat’s veterinary experience includes their trip to the clinic, their interaction with team members, the social environment (other animals in waiting and recovery areas), as well as the physical environment of the clinic. All of these aspects are covered in ‘Cat Friendly Tips’[1,2] Published jointly with the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). Appears in a special edition of Cat Friendly for Journal of Feline Medicine and surgery (JFMS) and available, along with a range of supporting information and resources, at bit.ly/JFMSCatFri Friendly.

“Cat Friendly Veterinary Interaction Guidelines 2022 AAFP/ISFM: Approach and Remediation Techniques”[1] and “ISFM/AAFP Cat Friendly Veterinary Environment Guidelines 2022”[2] It is addressed to veterinary professionals around the world. It was authored by experts in cat medicine and clinical behavior, who conducted a comprehensive literature review and also benefited from the valuable ten years of experience gained by the ISFM’s Cat Friendly Cat Clinic (catfriendlyclinic.org) and AAFP’s Friendly Practice (catvets). com/cfp) works and contributes positively to the health and well-being of cats. To date, nearly 3,700 clinics and practices in 57 countries have achieved official “Cat Friendly” status under the program.

At the heart of the new guidelines — richly illustrated with pictures from some of these cat-friendly clinics and practices — is the recognition that mental health is just as important as physical health. Cat Friendly’s Guidelines put the emotional experience of cats at the forefront of all veterinary interactions, and incorporate some new terms: positive feelings for the cat, which, for example, may lead them to explore the environment and search for food, treats, play, and socialize. Reactivity, rephrased as “engaging” feelings, while negative feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, and pain are referred to as “protective” feelings. This approach will help the veterinary team better understand the cat’s perspective, identify underlying stressors, and determine what works to resolve the situation rather than exacerbate it.

For cats to be truly friendly, all team members need to understand cats, not just as individuals, but as a species. Much of the characteristic behavior of cats is derived from their feral ancestors. lithic wild cat, particularly their natural preference to rely on themselves for protection. Familiarity with, control over, predictability, and avoidance of threats all contribute to their perceived safety. In unfamiliar situations, the preferred strategy for most cats is to escape. When this option is not available, such as in the veterinary clinic, they instead try to hide or stand up to observe the environment from above.

Convenient Cat Instructions provide countless practical tips to reduce negative experiences and enhance positive ones. The term ‘thinking cat’ extends to educating the caregiver on how best to prepare the cat for its trip to the veterinary clinic, and is as basic as thinking about what the patient, through his highly tuned sensory system, can see, hear, and smell during his visit. to the clinic. The advice includes reducing visual stimulation – even pictures of cats and other animals can be seen as a threat. Cats should be kept away from noisy patients and loud clinic equipment, and all human voices should be soft, gentle and slow in rhythm. For the majority of practices that treat dogs and cats, it is important to remove potentially difficult odors by vacuuming dog hair and emptying strong-smelling waste bins, such as urine, and synthetic pheromones for cats can be used to help create a more reassuring environment. Importantly, modifications to create a more cat-friendly veterinary environment do not have to be structural or expensive, and he proposes a range of methods to provide cat-only waiting areas and options for hiding and sitting cages.

Likewise, the veterinary team needs to remain “cat-focused” during all interactions. Being aware of cats’ preferred touch areas—particularly in the area of ​​the facial glands, which produce pheromones used in social bonding—helps encourage positive emotions during the clinical examination, while simple steps, such as no bending or turning. The cat, avoiding direct eye contact, helps relieve anxiety. Allowing the cat to remain in the lower part of its carrier, or the use of towels or a raised side cat bed to encourage the feeling that it is hidden and protected, can be very helpful. Remarkably, by practicing cat-friendly interactions and providing a cat-friendly veterinary environment, equipment historically used for restraint, including cat bags, gloves, and gags, are quickly being replaced by things that provide the patient with comfort, a sense of safety, choice, and positive distraction. In certain situations, use of anti-anxiety medication is also appropriate, and Cat Friendly’s Guidelines discuss protocols for strategic use before or during a veterinary visit.

So, what’s next for cats, caregivers, and the veterinary team? The concept of “collaborative care” is described as a “cat-friendly” future. This will require developing and practicing new skills, both at home and in the veterinary practice, to help cats feel more relaxed and in control in medical situations where they may naturally feel fear and/or frustration. Immediately, each veterinary team is encouraged to consider even the smallest adjustments they can make to their veterinary environment and interactions to improve the experience of the cats and their caretakers.

For Cat Friendly Guides co-chairs, veterinarians Ilona Rodan, Nathalie Dowgray, Samantha Taylor and Kelly St Denis, the special issue of Cat Friendly for JFMS It’s a pivotal moment. “We are delighted that Cat Friendly Guidance is available to all veterinary professionals as it is a game-changer. They will enhance cat welfare, caregiver loyalty, and human safety, and mean more positive vet visits for everyone!”


  1. “Cat-Friendly Veterinary Interaction Guidelines 2022 AAFP/ISFM: Approaches and Handling Techniques” by Ilona Rodin, Natalie Dugray, Hazel C. Carney, Elaine Carusa, Sarah L.H. Ellis, Sarah Heath, Lee Neal, Kelly St. Denis and Samantha Taylor, November 2, 2022 and Journal of feline medicine and surgery.
    doi: 10.1177/1098612X221128760
  2. “2022 ISFM/AAFP Cat Friendly Veterinary Environment Guidelines” By Samantha Taylor, Kelly St. Denis, Sarah Collins, Natalie Doughray, Sarah L.H. Ellis, Sarah Heath, Ilona Rodin and Linda Ryan, November 2, 2022, Journal of feline medicine and surgery.
    doi: 10.1177/1098612X221128763

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