We love our feline friends and strive to make their visits as comforting as possible. Many of our cats are homebodies that prefer to be relaxing in the sun near the people they love rather than traveling to an unfamiliar place. For that reason, we know it is very important to work together with you to make your cat’s visits to our hospital a good experience for your cat. During your visits, please speak up and tell what your cat likes and doesn’t like. We need to know! Also, please feel free to bring to exams special foods, blankets or toys that comfort your cat. We understand that some cats are easily stressed, and have designed our cat friendly visits to help decrease anxiety.
What is so special about our cat visits? We are glad you asked. It is the small details that can change a fearful visit to a good one.
A good visit starts at home by making the carrier inviting and safe by training your cat to enjoy the carrier. Adding a soft blanket or towel in the carrier along with favorite toys and treats helps provide a positive association to traveling. Remember, cats instinctively hide when in an unfamiliar environment, so placing a lightweight towel over top of the carrier for the ride to the hospital will allow them to feel hidden and provide an additional feeling of security along with providing the smells of home. To avoid a terrible experience for your cat, be sure to securely fasten the carrier in the car to help prevent any sliding or tipping over of the carrier.
Upon arriving at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, you and your cat will enter through their very own cat entrance and reception area. This decreases the chance of your cat being frightened by the presence of a dog. Our hospital has separate exam rooms, treatment areas and nursing wards for cats and dogs, so even if your cat is hospitalized, he or she will not see or be near a dog . Each feline area contains a diffuser that constantly releases a synthetic pheromone called Feliway. Feliway mimics the cat’s natural facial pheromone to create a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s environment. This pheromone therapy is amazing in its ability to decrease stress for cats.
While they are traveling and while your are seated in the reception area, many cats feel more secure while having a towel over their carrier. Being allowed to feel hidden while in an unfamiliar place greatly reduces stress and vocalization of cats. ( A great tip: cut a small square out of the middle of a designated towel or blanket when putting it over top of the carrier. This allows for easy access to the carrier handle and keeps the towel from slipping.)
The exam room is the center of the visit. We want to take things slowly and let your cat have time to settle down from the car trip and adjust to the room. Each room has a Feliway diffuser along with blankets sprayed in advance with the Feliway pheromone to provide a sense of calm and well-being for your cat.
Fresh soft pads or blankets atop the exam tables provide a cozy place for cats to curl up on or even under. We like to use the blankets brought from home for cats to snuggle in because your cat is further comforted by the familiarity of the scents of home. Bringing their favorite beds or blankets from home definitely helps your cat feel more at ease. Cats thrive with familiar items, whether it is just for an exam or during hospitalization.
You may notice the Exam Room Assistants gently placing the carrier on the exam table or the floor and opening the door without paying any attention to your cat. This is what cats prefer. They do not want people peering into their carrier, talking to them and trying to get them to come out right away. It is important to allow your cat to explore at his or her own pace without being forced out of the carrier. Some cats come out readily while other are more shy and stay in the carrier. We love and respect the different personalities of cats and want to adjust our approach to meet their needs. If your cat is shy, we may offer treats or toys to help encourage your cat to venture out of the carrier or we may allow him to stay in the carrier for the exam. It is very important not to pull your cat out of the carrier because it is a very scary experience for them and will immediately result in a frightened and less cooperative cat.
Many carriers have tops that unlatch and can be easily taken off. If your cat does not want to leave the carrier, most of the exam can be done by your veterinarian while your cat is sitting in the bottom half of the carrier at least partially covered by a towel or blanket. Cats feel safe in small areas with high sides, which is why many cats will choose to sit in the exam table sink or in the scale. Lucky for them, our veterinarians can perform all or most of the examination while they are wherever they choose, whether it is in the bottom half of the carrier or even on your lap. Wherever they are, being covered with a blanket allows a nervous cat a place to hide. Our veterinarians are very good at examining half of the cat at a time and letting the other half hide. Many cats really like this, although some prefer to be out in the open.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) provides recommendations developed by a team of experts that improve the quality of pet care. They have found the number one stress inducer in cats at their annual physical exam is the taking of the temperature. Our veterinarians have taken this recommendation and at annual physical exams will only take the temperature if there is a concern for illness. Many cats rejoice when they find out they do not have to endure the indignity of having their temperature taken rectally!
During examination and treatment of your cat, the manner of handling is especially important to maintaining a low stress visit. Our veterinarians and staff are proud to use low stress handling techniques. We move slowly and quietly around cats and know just where to scratch behind the ear or under the chin to keep them calm. We know that gentle positioning for a blood draw makes a huge difference. If we need a blood sample, we will often gently draw the sample from a rear leg while allowing your cat to hide his or her head. We use very little restraint on cats because we know that they hate restraint and that the best results come from doing things “their way.” Of course, at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, cats and dogs have their own separate treatment areas for procedures such as blood draws, bandaging, placing catheters, etc. Eliminating the visual and olfactory presence of a dog in the cat areas of our hospital is extremely important in providing happy veterinary care for cats. We have provided for cats separately because we know it is the best way to eliminate stress.
Recently you may have noticed new interactive toys for your cat to play with in the rooms. These toys range from balls to chase, “fishing pole” type of toys and mechanical interactive toys that trigger the chase/hunt instincts. These toys are just a taste of the great interactive toys that are made for cats. Play has been shown to really help decrease stress in cats.
In the exam room, we also offer an assortment of different treats including crunchy dental treats, flaked tuna, catnip, canned foods, dehydrated fish and chicken treats. We have a variety because we know cats are very particular about what they consider a treat and it is not easy to please them. In addition, we go all out for our hospitalized patients, offering them a wide variety of canned and dry cat foods, chicken and tuna made for adult humans, and a variety of baby foods. It is extremely important to keep sick cats eating, so we may go through lots and lots of foods before we find one that they will eat.
Of course we love dogs, but meeting the special needs of cats is really a passion for our hospital. There is no greater joy for us than knowing we made getting veterinary care a good experience for your home-loving cat.