Ask anyone at Lien, they will agree that I am a cat lady; whether or not I'm classified as a crazy one depends on who you ask, but I embrace the moniker wholeheartedly! I love cats and am passionate about caring and advocating for them. Cats are complicated creatures, with many differences from dogs that can make them challenging to handle or care for, so we do many things to make our practice more cat-friendly and fear-free.
I visit the cats in kitty boarding for cuddles daily, sometimes dispensing catnip or letting out the more confident ones for individual recess time. We have Feliway plug-ins that disperse aerosolized synthetic calming pheromones, and anxious cats are given "privacy curtains" on their kennels to hide behind; the same goes for surgery and dental patients. I also like to visit those patients to give them some love—most are happy to receive, even when anxious!
Handling and treating cats comes with its own set of challenges - they are often tired of being poked and prodded by doctors, then they have to deal with even more invasive procedures after the exam! We do our best to bring treatments to an anxious cat, as keeping it in the room can greatly help. Unlike dogs, cats often give very few or no warning signs before their fuse runs out, and they can strike out fast and hard, so knowing how to minimize stress and maximize safe handling is essential.
We always restrain animals in a gentle and supportive manner - some cats can be restrained by being held on their side by their scruff, while others do better wrapped in a towel, burrito-style. Most cats are best for blood drawn from a back leg, but some will do very well for a jugular blood draw, usually performed on dogs. We always prioritize diagnostics and treatments over things like toenail trims and anal gland expressions so that we accomplish the most important tasks in case the cat runs out of patience.
Another aspect of being cat-friendly is premedication. We have some feline patients who are too fractious (aggressive) to handle or treat, and the mere prospect of wrangling a furious feline to get them to the clinic is enough to deter some owners from annual exams, only bringing the cat in when it is sick or injured. Believe me, I know the feeling - my Bengals caterwaul and scream on the way to and at the vet, making visits unpleasant for all of us! In order to minimize stress for the cat, owner, and clinic staff alike while simultaneously maximizing quality of care, our doctors will often prescribe a pre-visit sedative.
Gabapentin, a pain medication with excellent sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, has become a fast favorite among our doctors. When assistants and technicians perceive that a patient is particularly stressed, we will often ask a doctor to prescribe a pre-visit medication so that the next visit will go more smoothly. The combination of sedation and anti-anxiety can calm a cat, preventing the fight-or-flight response that leads to aggression and prevents treatment.
Cats are strange and wonderful creatures, and deserve our love and help. They are often much more discerning and hard to please than dogs - no offense to either species! - but I think this is what makes them special. As anyone who has met me knows, I am thrilled to meet every cat, whether or not they reciprocate the sentiment! I have been sent to the ER with my share of cat bites, but I am not deterred from caring for them to the best of my ability, nor will I ever be. I am glad to be practicing at a clinic like Lien, where we constantly strive to be cat-friendly and fear-free.
Erika Price, Veterinary Assistant
To see Erika and Mckenzy, a member of our kennel crew, in kitty boarding, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4BSzaLSZlY&feature=youtu.be