Veterinarians: Cat Care Key To Growth

Bayer HealthCarcat-playing-with-toye teamed up with the American Association of Feline Practitioners for a study that reveals that 78% of veterinarians believe that better care for cats represents one of the most significant, missed opportunities for the profession.

The study found that 46% of veterinary clinics have recently started taking specific steps to increase visits among current feline patients, attract more cat-owning clients, and make their practices more "friendly" to cats.

Insights from the “Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III: Feline Findings” were presented last week at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla. This third in a series of studies sponsored by Bayer HealthCare LLC Animal Health Division was presented in partnership with the AAFP and Brakke Consulting. The study's findings are based on a nationally representative online survey of 401 veterinary practice owners in November 2012. 

The purpose of the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study is to improve veterinary care of pets by determining why visits are declining and helping veterinarians reverse the trend, according to Ian Spinks, President and General Manager, Bayer HealthCare LLC Animal Health Division, North America. Earlier phases of the study found that cats were less likely to receive regular veterinary care.  

The study aims to deliver actionable insights that improve feline health care and strengthen veterinary practices, Spinks says.

"Together with the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Bayer HealthCare will work throughout 2013 to uncover the obstacles to routine veterinary care for cats and find practical solutions to help remove them," Spinks says in a release.

A key objective of the study was to determine the extent to which veterinary practices recognize the need to improve cat care and what steps, if any, they have taken to increase feline visits. Nearly 70 percent of veterinarians were familiar with the earlier Bayer studies. Of those most familiar, 48 percent indicated they had made specific changes in their practices, most aimed at increasing cat visits. Moreover, 91 percent of veterinarians believe they have available capacity to handle more cat visits without significant changes.  

However, despite the fact that most veterinarians recognize that cat owners consider a visit to the veterinarian to be stressful for themselves and their pets, nearly one-third of practices have not trained staff on how to make visits less stressful for cat owners. In addition, relatively few practices have adopted procedures such as: exam rooms used only for cats (35 percent); cat-only waiting areas that are physically and visually separated from dogs (18 percent); and cat-only days and appointment hours (11 percent).  

To some extent, veterinarians' own biases may play a role in how they pursue feline patients, said Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, owner of Chico Hospital for Cats, Chico, Calif., and past president of AAFP.

For example, the study found that while veterinarians are nearly equally likely to own a dog or cat -- 81% versus 70% -- 48% prefer dogs, while only 17% prefer cats.

In addition to understanding and developing solutions to overcome the obstacles to cat care, the partnership between Bayer HealthCare and the American Association of Feline Practitioners aims to foster greater awareness and adoption of the AAFP's "Cat Friendly Practice" (CFP) Program.

The program contains multimedia educational resources covering such areas as: understanding cat behavior; pet owner communication; waiting room comfort and handling guidelines. To date, 259 veterinary practices have become CFP-approved, with an additional 530 pending or working toward approval.

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