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 25-28 September, 2018 | Singapore
necessary items for examining cats as well as to strive to achieve cat comfort.
Looking over our clinic/hospital environment, what
can we do to reduce the stress and threat level of the physical and social environment? What things or events assault the five senses of a cat? How can we make positive changes to these? Table 1 shows a chart that can be completed by the clinic team. For example: Scary smells include alcohol, disinfectants, odours of other carried animals; this can be remediated by wiping the area to which alcohol had sparingly been applied with
a damp cloth and using venipuncture sites far from the nose (medial saphenous) when possible. Disinfectant should be allowed to evaporate before a cat is placed/ replaced in a kennel. Carry and examine all patients
in their own, fresh towel rather than have their smells embed themselves in your clothing.
Table 1. Chart for assessing perceived threats to cats in hospital setting
Handling (examination, hospitalization, diagnostics, and treatments)
The goal is to handle our patients respectfully and provide an appeasing environment to build positive, long-term relationships. This is achieved by reducing threat and, thus, the cat’s need to react defensively. Avoid doing things in a way that use threatening feline body language or tone. The aggressive cat is upright, stiff-legged, and large; sit down to examine cats.
Never stare a frightened cat in the face: examine cats from behind and, other than for ophthalmic evaluation, avoid direct frontal facial viewing. Using a sideways glance with hooded eyelids indicates a desire to cooperate. A slow blink is a reassuring signal to a cat similar to a human smile.
The aggressive cat growls and uses low tones; use light, upper register tones, perhaps chirruping as cats do when they are relaxed with conspecifics. Shushing a cat to try to calm her as we might a child is the equivalent to hissing at her. Short repetitive sounds should be avoided, since these may resemble spitting rhythms. Purrs, chuffing, trills, and chirrups are welcoming sounds.
When cats feel secure and safe, even just able to hide their faces in an elbow or a towel, they allow most procedures. Try to keep all four of their paws on the
floor and avoid changing their body position as much
as possible. A comprehensive examination, blood and urine collection, body temperature and blood pressure evaluation can all be done without changing the cat’s position. Examine her in the base of her own carrier if the lid can be removed. Don’t hang a cat’s forelimbs over the edge of a table for jugular venipuncture. For the frightened individual, additional lack of support under the paws is not reassuring.
Reaching into a kennel to pick up a patient blocks the light; to the cat you appear as a looming, frightening stranger (smells, sounds, visual input). Instead, approach the opening of a kennel from the side so that some light still enters. Do not block every chance for escape; if the possibility to have some control over her environment and situation exists, she will be much more cooperative. Because cats rely on flight and fight for survival and
are not reliant on others, when it comes to restraint, the mantra holds true: Less is more! Cats inherently resist intimate handling and restraint. By restraining them, we take away their sense of control and cause them to react. It is very easy to condition negative emotional responses. Scruffing is strongly discouraged as it is an act of dominance that cats may resent. Similarly, stretching is an inappropriate, disrespectful and unnecessary way to apply restraint. Every future experience builds on the previous negative (or positive) experience. Cat bags, masks, and gloves all carry the scents of similarly terrified patients plus other sundry smells (anal gland secretion, pus, blood, halitosis, etc.) A towel is all that is needed to wrap a cat in, in order to protect the handler. Remember, a cat would rather flee than attack.
Train all staff in respectful cat interactions and handling. An excellent and comprehensive resource is the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM)’s Feline Friendly Handling Guidelines, downloadable at: www. It is well worth reviewing and refining cat examination techniques as a clinic team for a consistent approach, the goal being to make them less threatening. Because value is “perceived worth” and because every visit is a valuable opportunity to educate the client, talk to the client and the cat throughout the entire procedure. Source and provide feline friendly medications, being sure to follow up one or more times with the client to find out how the patient is doing and if the client needs a refresher course on how to administer the medications. Be sure to send home an exam report with home care instructions for the client to refer to. Schedule recheck appointments or the next wellness visit before the client leaves the practice. The AAFP
has created the Cat Friendly Practice program through which any interested clinic can raise its cat care IQ. (

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