Junior and senior wellness plans should include a complete physical examination and appropriate laboratory profiles (Figure 2). Senior plans may add more extensive laboratory work, electrocardiograms (ECGs), blood pressure monitoring, and radiographs.
All wellness plans should include examination report cards (Figure 3). These forms illustrate different body systems where doctors can indicate normal and abnormal findings and make comments
on these findings. The forms can also reflect suggested diagnostic tests and procedures (e.g., dentals), illustrate laboratory results, and document immunizations. Report cards are especially effective when the caregiver
is absent during the exam. Spouses, friends, children, babysitters, and great aunts once removed all bring cats to the veterinary
clinic, and these middle men can impede effective doctor-client communication.
Figure 4. This exam room in the Cat Clinic of Orange County, Costa Mesa, Calif., includes a cat-size scale, cat art, and a
large window in the door that prevents waiting clients (and pets) from feeling claustrophobic.
8. Create a feline-friendly environment. There are myriad ways to make cat owners feel more at home. You can, for example, provide feline-related reading material
in the waiting room, along with photographs of staff members or clients with their cats.
Dogs and cats often don't mix well. Many practices have separate entrances for dogs and cats, but if your clinic only has
one door and a single waiting room, you can establish appointment blocks to minimize the intermingling of dogs and cats in
the waiting room. Some practices schedule dog and cat appointments on different days of the week or at different times of
the day (morning vs. afternoon).This requires properly trained staff members and some flexibility because, inevitably, dogs
will show up during cat hours and vice versa.
Finally, consider setting up a feline-friendly exam room (Figure 4). Furnish the room with feline-related reading materials, educational tools, treats, and a scale that can weigh small kittens.
Just make sure the cat room can adapt easily to dogs as well.
Dog clients should never wait for an available exam room when the cat room is empty.
9. Offer comfortable boarding accommodations. Luxury cat condos are the rage among cat owners, but for general practitioners who don't have the time, money, or inclination
to remodel their existing kennels, alternatives do exist. Cats' wants are simple, so you'll make them comfortable by providing
adequate room, a variety of substrates, and a little privacy. Start with an ample space that gives cats room to walk around
and play and allows you to place their food and water bowls at discreet distances from litter pans. Add some boxes and rugs
to sink their claws into. Inexpensive carpet samples are difficult to disinfect and may be discarded, but soft rubber mats
are easily maintained and reusable. It also helps to cover cage doors so nervous cats won't have to stare at other cats or,
even worse, other dogs.
It's great if you can provide separate kennels for dogs and cats, but if you have only one kennel, avoid the traditional boarding
diagram of cats on one side and dogs on the other. Instead, keep cats at the back of the room facing each other, with the
dogs at the front of the room. This prevents cats from having to witness a canine parade as attendants lead the dogs outside
to eliminate. One final tip: Music actually may soothe the savage beast, so playing a radio in the kennel is an easy, effective
Taking care of dogs and cats is certainly a challenge for general practitioners. Cats may be unpredictable creatures at times,
but they do break the monotony of treating a single species. There's never a dull moment when dealing with cats or their owners.
Increasing the feline portion of a general practice keeps practice life interesting, and it's good for business, too. Caring
for cats is definitely worth the effort.
Dr. Lynn Buzhardt is a small-animal practitioner at The Animal Center Inc. in Zachary, La. A native Southerner, she graduated
from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1980. Dr. Buzhardt has been recognized by the human medical
community for her seminars that focus on integrating infants into pet-owning households. She also serves as a spokesperson
for media news outlets, lectures to fellow veterinarians, and is a member of the Louisiana Governor's Council for Pet Overpopulation
and the American Heartworm Society Board of Directors.