"What is a cat-friendly veterinary clinic?
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"What is a cat-friendly veterinary clinic?

Cats
Health & Safety

If you own a cat, you will know that taking them to the vet can be a very stressful proposition, when you take into account the need to close your cat inside, get them into a carrier, transport them in the car, wait in a waiting room full of other pets and then taken into a consult room and be poked and prodded, before being bundled back into their carrier to go home!

No cats enjoy being taken out of their comfort zone to the vets, but there are a whole range of ways in which the whole process can be made a little easier, and one of the best ways to go about this is by registering yourself with an ISFM Cat-Friendly clinic. If you aren’t quite sure what this means or how to go about finding one-or why you should-in this article, we will look at how an officially cat-friendly clinic differs from your average clinic, and why this can help to make your cat more comfortable. Read on to learn more!

The ISFM scheme

The ISFM is the International Society of Feline Medicine, and is an umbrella organisation and body that advocates for cats and cat-friendly veterinary care. In order to support feline medicine and make visiting the vets less stressful and traumatic for cats and their owners alike, the ISFM set up the “Cat Friendly Clinic” programme, and encouraged vets all across the world to sign up for it and make small but important changes to their practice set-up and working routines in order to make their kitty clients more comfortable.

Clinics can apply to be joined into the scheme, which then allows them to use the ISFM logo and promote themselves as a cat friendly clinic, which has benefits for both the practice and the cat and their owners alike.

Why is a cat friendly clinic different to a normal clinic?

While there are a few veterinary clinics in the UK that only see cats, most clinics will not specialise to that extent! However, an ISFM scheme member clinic will differ from the average clinic in that both the layout of the clinic itself and a whole range of other things will be set up to make cats more comfortable when they have to go to the vets.

Enrolment in the scheme means a lot of work in order to comply, and cat owners will not necessarily be able to directly see everything is involved in this for the vets! Some of the main factors that cat-friendly clinics must offer in order to enrol within the scheme include:

  • Providing a cat-only waiting room that is separate from the main waiting room where dogs will be present, or have a partitioned waiting room to keep cats out of the line of sight of dogs. An alternative to this is offering set appointment times for cats only, when there will not be dogs present in the waiting room.
  • The waiting room must also be free of excessive noise, so as to avoid stressing the cats out any more than necessary.
  • Standard consultations for cats should be scheduled for ten minutes each at a minimum, with longer if possible advised.
  • If inpatient hospitalisation is offered in the clinic, the cats must be kept as far from the dogs as possible, with a partition or separate rooms for each species if possible. Noise and eye contact between dogs and cats should be minimised wherever possible.
  • Each cat kennel must have solid walls or barriers rather than wire or mesh walls, in order to help the cats feel more secure, and also hidey holes or covered beds should be offered if possible.

While keeping cats away from dogs when in the clinic is a large part of the parts of the scheme that the general public see, there is a whole lot more to it than simply this! Cat-friendly clinics need to comply with a whole range of other elements of the scheme too, from how to handle cats in a certain way to seeing a certain amount of feline patients in a year and keeping up to date with advances in feline medicine.

The ISFM scheme runs at three tiers-bronze, silver and gold, with gold level clinics having invested a significant amount of money and effort into bringing their practice up to standard, in some cases building special cat-only wards with special kennels that have curved fronts, in order to minimise eye contact between cats.

Even at the bronze level, which does not require the clinic to perform renovations in order to comply providing that a viable work-around is possible, the amount of effort and thought that is required from clinics is quite extensive, and so clinics that are joined into the scheme and found compliant will have spent a lot of effort on bringing their practice up to code.

You can find out the full remit of what is covered in the scheme and what you can expect from clinics at bronze, silver and gold level here, and find a local clinic to you on this list.

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