Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Handling "difficult" cats

So I don't have photos of hissing cats. Turns out that when cats are hissing and puffed up like this they don't appreciate their photo being taken. And I'm generally preoccupied trying to calm them down. Instead my colleague from the Cat Protection Society  is modelling this awesome Cat Versus Human tee (you can see the original designs here).

Hell hath no fury like a frightened/angry cat. I have to laugh internally anytime someone says "why are you worried, it's just a cat!". Well, cat bites are serious, they hurt, and they are responsible for some of the most impressive injuries I've seen in vet practice. I've been bitten by a crocodile (clarification: it was a baby) and that was nothing compared to a cat bite.

But the bigger negative of dealing with stressed out cats is the impact of the stress on that cat, and the other cats in hospital. Once they get wound up its hard for them to relax, all handlng becomes challenging and their experience of the veterinary hospital must be just awful. 

And as vets we absolutely don't want that! There are some cats who are just so terrified in a veterinary environment that nothing you do will calm them down. Some judiciously used anaesthetic agents may be appropriate in these cases. Its safer for the patient and the veterinary team. might argue that there is no such thing as a "difficult" cat per se, there are only difficult encounters. Changing the way we behave may change the way we respond and prevent escalation into full-blown feline chaos.

So if you're up for learning more about how to handle difficult cats, until December 31 you can view Dr Sophia Yin's webinar on Low Stress Handling of Difficult Cats.

The thing I like about this most is that Dr Yin considers the vet visit from the cat's point of view, and also considers the potential impact of the veterinary environment on the animal's stress levels. (A warning...some video of the examples of poor handling of cats will be upsetting, especially to anyone who has not seen a cat really stress out before).

I'm fortunate to work in a very cat friendly practice where our team is trained to handle cats calmly. I'm a big believer in synthetic feline facial pheromones and the use of top-loading cat carriers (el cheapo cat carrier designers out there have a LOT to answer for! but that's another topic).

If you are interested in making your clinic more cat friendly, see also the Feline Advisory Bureau's guidelines for creating a cat-friendly practice here. This is such an important topic that I am going to discuss it in more detail shortly. Meantime enjoy learning how to minimise stress when handling your feline patients!