Dr. Emily Dae Andersen, DVM, CVA, CVFT
“Cats determine their own treatment,” is a refrain I often use with cat owners. It elicits both a friendly lightness and resonates since we all know that cats simply can’t be forced to do anything. Add to that the fact that many of our patients may be stressed or in pain, and it can be difficult to provide care. It can be similarly challenging for cat owners. This can lead to poor outcomes and frustration for both owners and veterinary professionals. Here are a few key strategies to ensure compliance and create successful outcomes for your feline patients.
Improve the clinic experience
There are always improvements that can be made within the hospital to reduce the stress of both the cat and their owner. This inevitably leads to better medicine. From waiting room flow (many cats may prefer waiting curbside to a busy waiting room), to reducing examination and handling stress, there is an abundance of resources available including suggestions from Fear Free. Get your technicians and support staff involved; they have great ideas and will enjoy feeling empowered to advocate for our kitty patients. Remember that this takes time and planning, so focus on implementing just a few changes at a time.
Make house calls
As a house call veterinarian I am continually amazed with the successful outcomes that result from visiting cats in their home. Beyond the decreased anxiety of the cats, the relief provided to their owners is tangible.
Without their energy focused on hauling a howling cat into the hospital, owners are much more receptive to further discussion (i.e. that dentistry that has been overdue for a few years). A house call visit for a particularly stressed cat or elderly client, is something that can often be accommodated into a brick and mortar clinic’s schedule. Otherwise, developing rapport with area house call veterinarians can be a huge asset for a clinic. Personally, it has been one of my greatest unexpected joys to partner with fantastic brick and mortar clinics, employing win-win cooperation of “working together”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly challenged us all to reevaluate how “things are done” and create novel solutions. Telehealth, in all of its forms, has proven a viable and successful tool for many situations.
Help finicky felines
Is there a beneficial dietary change for a cat with a good appetite? Can an unpalatable medication or supplement be compounded into a preferred formula? Is a transdermal medication an option? Set the expectation with owners from the beginning that there are many resources available for ensuring treatment success and if one doesn’t work, they can always contact us
Build client rapport
Cat veterinary care is inherently stressful for many owners. Gaining owner trust will certainly improve compliance all around. Owners relate to the fact that your veterinary team understands their cat has unique and special needs and wants to help them. Rather than become frustrated with poor patient outcomes, try to ask owners how you can help them achieve the intended results.
It’s important to remember that the “gold standard” can look very different for different cats and cat parents. Make your approach, however that may look, pleasurable for all parties as much as possible, and not detract from the important human/animal bond. This will not only make our beloved feline patients and clients happier but will help achieve improved outcomes.
Dr. Emily Dae Andersen currently runs a small animal house call practice and works as a high quality/high volume spay/neuter veterinarian. Dr. Andersen is passionate about access to veterinary care, both stateside and abroad. She is also certified in veterinary acupuncture and food therapy and has completed advanced training in Chinese herbal medicine. Dr. Andersen splits her time between Connecticut and Vermont where she lives with a menagerie of beloved animals.