Even though cats outnumber dogs as pets in America, Fido tends to get more medical attention than Fluffy.
Christen Skaer of Skaer Veterinary Clinic is out to change that, at least when it comes to her practice. She said her clinic was recently certified as a “cat-friendly” practice by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, based on its facilities and procedures.
“Cats really don’t get the medical care they deserve,” Skaer said.
Skaer isn’t blaming other vets. In many cases, cat owners are reluctant to bring cats to a veterinarian because the animals tend to get “super stressed.”
Also, Skaer said, cats “are really good at hiding their sickness.”
“A cat will never tell you it’s in pain,” she said.
Some of the most common medical problems experienced by cats are dental disease, diabetes and kidney and thyroid problems. The clinic also can help with behavioral problems, which Skaer said are the biggest cause of euthanasia.
“I hear people say there is nothing you can do to help,” Skaer said. “Caught early enough, we can do something about them.”
Nationwide, there are about 86 million cats and 78 million dogs, according to the Humane Society. In her own clinic, Skaer said, cats account for about 30 to 40 percent of her patients.
Skaer Veterinary Clinic was started in 1972 by Christen’s father, Bill, who’s now retired. Two other veterinarians and 15 employees make it among the city’s largest.
Among the clinic’s features are a waiting and exam room that is used exclusively for cats. The clinic also has an ear exam tool specifically made for cats, and it employs techniques such as performing exams while a cat remains in its carrying crate. A calming pheromone called “Feliway” is often used.
“We were doing a lot of what they wanted anyway,” Skaer said of the certification requirements.
Another focus of the clinic is educating cat owners about the importance of crate training, which can help make a pet’s trip to a veterinarian – and other places – less stressful.
Skaer credits her clinic care coordinator, Katie Ritter, for getting the clinic certified as cat-friendly. Although she’s only been working there eight months, Ritter’s family has brought its cats to the clinic since she was a child.
“I’m a cat lady,” she said with a laugh.
So is Skaer, although she owns dogs as well.
“I love cats,” she said. “I think they are incredible creatures.”