Cats are amazing creatures, and we are fortunate to live in a society that celebrates their poise, beauty, grace and quirky personalities. And while it is truly awesome that many veterinarians are now committed to becoming more feline friendly, the fact remains that most cats still do not receive the same amount of veterinary care as their dog counterparts. While the oft sited reason for this is cats’ independent and stoic nature, as well as their tendency to mask pain and illness, this explanation fails to get to the root of the problem – a tremendous lack of education of cat owners on the importance of ongoing preventive care.
So what is one of the best ways to surpass this hurdle and begin to develop lifelong partnerships with cat owners? The most logical and effectual opportunity is to implement a feline educational program centered on wellness plans that include a practice’s optimal preventive care services and diagnostics for each feline life stage. Why wellness plans? Because they are an educational tool in and of themselves, and present in writing a practice’s optimal preventive care recommendations. In most cases clients want to do what is best for their cat, but often they just don’t know what that is. Wellness plans make that indelibly clear. Adding the ability to spread the cost of care over 12 monthly payments makes it that much easier for cat owners to follow your recommendations.
It’s common for cat owners to think that unless their cat is due for vaccinations, or showing signs of illness, there is no reason to bring them to the veterinarian. The beauty of wellness plans is that they take the focus off of vaccinations (explain that these will be given as needed) and re-focuses the conversation on the value of regular examinations, screening diagnostics and dental health.
Make it a mission to help owners understand that cats are very different from their canine counterparts. Stress that due to their independent nature cats tend to be stoic and hide painful symptoms, making it that much more important for them to be assessed by a veterinarian at least annually. Explain to them that regular exams can mean the difference between a disease that has progressed versus one that is caught early enough to be cured or medically managed successfully.
Another benefit of wellness plan is that they are built around bi-annual exams, which allows the veterinarian and team members more time to bond and demonstrate all of the ways the practice caters to cats. Equally important is that twice-a-year preventive care exams provide the time to focus on important topics such as nutrition and weight management, dentistry and behavior. Ultimately cat owners will learn to stop focusing on vaccinations and start realizing the importance of investing in preventive care to extend and improve their cat’s life.
While working to achieve a reputation as a practice with a strong affinity for felines takes time and effort, doing so brings significant rewards, both for practices and the feline pet population. As a starting point, veterinary teams must commit to practice-wide feline preventive care standards and then promote these via wellness plans. Remember that our clients want what we want – what is best for the health of their cats. Ultimately it is then the practice’s responsibility to show our love of cats by advocating for what is best for them and doing everything we can to make it simple and easy for cat owners to provide the care we recommend.
And while it may be true that cats (and sometimes cat owners) bring unique challenges to the table, as the French veterinarian, Fernand Mery once said, “with the qualities of cleanliness, affection, patience, dignity, and courage that cats have, how many of us, I ask you, would be capable of becoming cats?”