How do you develop a lifelong partnership with cat owners? Start with a feline educational program for all team members and extensive training on proper restraint and handling. It's not enough to have only one or two veterinarians and team members who are "good with cats." If we want cat owners to perceive value in preventive care exams, showing we can handle cats helps gain their trust and loyalty.
(GETTY IMAGES/ANDY ROBERTS)
Ask yourself, "How feline friendly am I?" Here are a few ways to cater to cats and their owners:
> Count the number of cat photos vs. dog photos on your website and social media pages and on the walls of your practice. If you are a cat owner looking for a practice, would you be drawn to a practice with pictures of dogs dominating the website?
> Survey your cat owners. Reach out to clients who haven't brought their cat to the veterinarian in 18 months or more. Ask why they haven't been in, if they feel your practice is cat friendly and how improve their experience.
> Break up your database so you can target marketing to feline owners—send separate newsletters and offer different incentives.
> If the practice is large enough, reserve one or two exam rooms—ideally furthest from louder areas of the hospital—for cats and keep a pheromone diffuser plugged in at all times.
> Spray yourself and a towel with pheromones before entering the exam room.
> Get cats out of the lobby and into an exam room quickly.
> Let cats out of their carrier in the exam room and let them roam around. Keep the carrier door open even if they choose not to come out on their own. Consider removing the carrier until it's time to leave so they can't hide.
> Suggest owners bring cats for meet-and-greet visits before their appointment to acclimate the cat to the carrier and car and to the smells and noises of the practice.
Achieving a reputation as a practice with an affinity for felines takes effort—and brings great rewards. 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?"
Jessica Goodman Lee, CVPM, wrote this piece originally for CareCredit.