Taking care of our Smart Flow customers is big part of my working life, however there is still a bit of room left on occasion, to wear my practicing RVT hat. I choose to do this at a local clinic, which had been until recently, a feline-only practice for the last 20 years. Over the years Dr. Meow, my friend and cat whisperer, taught me some very important basics that will help any veterinary practice when it comes to kitty-wrangling.
1. Pheromones are your friend
#1 Goal? Happy kitty! There is literally not an inch of the clinic that Feliway has not touched. It's plugged into most outlets, it's sprayed on towels we use, and our scrubs are doused in it. Feliway is our best friend. It makes kitties relaxed, it creates a feeling of comfort, and we use it often as a behaviour modification tool in the home setting as well. Now if they only made a similar spray for people...
2. Towels, towels, and more towels
Cats love to hide, and when their face is covered, most of them are more manageable. Fractious cats are often able to be picked up with a blanket or several thick towels, and held on their side for a blood draw, injection, or partial exam. They will appreciate not seeing you, having something to hide under, and you will appreciate having your hands far away from those teeth. Just be careful of how much pressure you put on them, and that you leave lots of space for them to breathe freely.
3. Less is definitely more
While we want to handle cats like we do dogs, it doesn't always work out in our favour. Cats are less likely to want to be touched. Often less is more, and heavy restraint will cause stress and retaliation. An important rule with Dr. Meow was that we don't scruff cats. We use towels, a hand on the back of the neck, and generally try to do procedures such as blood draws using hind legs right in the room. While I am a big fan of jugular sticks on patients when I'm working at the local emergency clinic, owners are very used to, and appreciate being able to talk to their cats during blood collection in a general practice setting. It's amazing what grumpy kitties will let you do if you avoid having alcohol near their face, and instead have them laying down with their owner close by for comfort.
4. Drugs are also your friend
Chemical restraint is a magical thing. So is pain control. While fractious kitties are often just stressed, it's important to consider that they also could be very painful. Lack of analgesia is unfortunately still a very real thing in our profession, and painful kitties are often overlooked because as we know, cats don't show pain like a lot of other creatures. Instead of struggling with our feline patients, why not consider some pharmaceuticals which often will have both sedative and analgesic effects?We have so many options for both sedation and analgesia at our fingertips nowadays: use it!!!!
5. Cats rule, and dogs drool
Literally. And they bark, and shed, and jump. Dogs can be just plain annoying. As much as I love dogs, a lot of cats don't. Why set up our kitty patients for failure by stressing them out with their canine counterparts? Having separate entrances for dogs vs cats, or at least different areas of the waiting room will help immensely. No cat wants to have a strange dog panting in their face, and then be expected to sit still while you poke and prod them. If there is limited space in your front office, consider having a cat-only room void of dog smell, equipped with a Feliway diffuser instead. If possible, keep your hospitalized kitties in a quieter area of the hospital, away from barking dogs.
These are just a few tips and tricks I've learned along the way, but there are many more out there! What are your feline-taming tidbits that you have picked up over the years? We would love to hear about them in the comments below!