Start a "kitty crusade" to educate veterinary clients
The dog-to-cat ratio at Dr. Keith Rode’s veterinary practice was off balance. “In 2010, the ratio was four dogs to one cat, as far as patients seeking routine care, ” says Dr. Rode of Woodland Veterinary Hospital in Woodland, Calif. "I know there aren’t that many more dogs than cats out there. Clients think cats are self-sufficient and don’t need a lot of attention.” Plus, cats are harder to transport, so taking them to the clinic can be a stressful time—for the pet and the owner.
One thing was certain: His team needed a plan to get cats into the clinic. “Cats may seem like they’re healthy but diseases can be lurking under the surface,” Dr. Rode says.
That's when Woodland Veterinary Hospital decided to dedicate two months to feline care (a time that would normally be slow). They called their campaign the Kitty Crusade and sent out a press release a few weeks before the start. Dr. Rode also promoted the crusade on his practice’s Facebook page. Team members made posters to hang throughout the clinic addressing the following feline issues:
- Inappropriate elimination
- Cat vaccines (indoor cats vs. outdoor cats)
- Hyperthyroid disease
They also offered tips on how to make the trip to the clinic more enjoyable for feline patients. “Tell your clients to bring out the cat carrier a few days before the veterinary appointment so he gets used to its presence before he has to get inside it,” Dr. Rode says.
One of the highlights of the crusade was a raffle. “We put the prize, a cat tree (pictured below), in the waiting room so everyone could see it,” Dr. Rode says. “Then we had an excuse to ask every client on their way out if they had a cat at home.” Some of his clients had cats he didn’t even know about.
To get the next generation on board, they hosted a cat coloring contest for children with their message printed at the bottom of each page: Cats need veterinary care, too.
Although Dr. Rode hasn’t seen a huge increase of feline patients since the crusade, he still thinks it was a success. "The ultimate goal was education," Dr. Rode says, "Clients need to hear about feline care multiple times before it sinks in. And they need to hear it from us first."
He recommends that all clinics launch their own kitty campaign to, at least, get clients thinking about veterinary feline care. However, he says it should be an ongoing process. “I would still like to find other ways to educate clients,” Dr. Rode says. “The crusade is just the beginning.”
What does your team do to get cats into your clinic? Share your ideas at dvm360.com/comment.