Tips to Make Your Practice More Feline Friendly
Visits to the vet can be traumatic for cats and their owners. The experience can be so upsetting that cat owners might be reluctant to return for annual visits, electing to schedule appointments for injuries or illnesses only. In fact, 44.9 percent of cat owners don’t take their pets to a veterinarian over the course of a year, according to the 2012 edition of the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.
Making your practice feline-friendly not only ensures that cats get the care they need but also helps boost revenues. These tips can help make visits more pleasant for your feline patients.
Designate Separate Dog and Cat Waiting Rooms
Anxiety levels tend to rise even before visits begin when cats and dogs sit side-by-side in the waiting room. If you have room in your office, create a waiting room just for cats. When you can’t rearrange your clinic’s configuration, and there’s no room in the budget for expansion, you can still make changes that will reduce the anxiety level of your feline patients.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners offers several tips, such as dividing the waiting room with bookcases, room dividers, and tall plants, or escorting cat owners directly to examination rooms. They report that some practices even schedule feline-only hours and only make emergency appointments for dogs during these hours.
Spraying pheromones on exam tables, examining rooms and even employee uniforms offer a simple, inexpensive way to reduce anxiety. Consider placing pheromone diffusers in every area cats may be present, including X-ray rooms.
Change the Perception
Right or wrong, some cat owners feel that their pets aren’t welcomed as eagerly as dogs. If they’ve had a bad experience at a veterinarian’s office, or they notice that front office employees lavish attention on dogs and ignore cats, it may be challenging to change their minds.
Letting clients know that your practice values cats can be accomplished by:
- Including information about cat health and images of cats on your website and social media sites
- Mailing flyers to cat owners promoting your feline services or emailing those that have provided email addresses
- Offering exam rooms used only for cats
- Adding a house call service
- Offering discounts to cat owners
The American Association of Feline Practitioners offers a Cat-Friendly Practice certification program that provides detailed instructions and advice regarding ways to make your practice more attractive to cat owners. The program covers physical changes to your office, cat handling techniques, client education information, marketing suggestions, best practices, and other advice. Once you’ve completed the program, you can display the Cat-Friendly Practice designation in your window and use it in promotional materials.
If you’ve been looking for cost-effective ways to expand your practice, becoming feline-friendly offers many benefits. Incorporating these changes can reinvigorate your practice and help you attract and retain cat owners.
Partners for Healthy Pets: Feline-Friendly Practice
Trends: Pouncing on an Opportunity, 5/13
dvm360: 5 Ways to Entice More Cats to Your Veterinary Clinic, 4/14
American Association of Feline Practitioners: Cat Friendly Practice FAQs
AVMA: Vital Statistics, 1/16/13