When was the last time you took your cat to see a veterinarian? If you are like most cat owners, it’s probably been a while. The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study found that 52% percent of cat owners avoid taking their feline friend in for regular vet visits. Unfortunately, that means that these felines are missing out on preventative care that could identify disease and medical issues early, when they are easier to treat.
To reverse this trend, some veterinarians are changing their approach to cat care. One local veterinary clinic with a strong feline focus is LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. Founded 25 years ago by husband and wife veterinarians Tom Hemstreet, DVM, RSO and Donna Warren, DVM, LakeCross Veterinary is the first Gold-certified Cat Friendly Practice in the Lake Norman area.
“Our goal is to have a low-stress environment for both the cat and the pet parent,” said Dr. Warren “This leads to more regular visits and the opportunity to treat health problems that may otherwise be missed.”
“Cats are masters of disguise,” explained Dr. Hemstreet. “They hide illness and disease very well. Often, by the time cats start demonstrating signs that something is wrong, such as refusing food or hiding, their medical problem has progressed to an advanced stage.”
Fluctuation in your cat’s weight, whether up or down, can be a primary indicator of a health issue. However change in weight is often missed until a visit to the veterinarian’s office. Since pet parents see their cats every day, they may not notice slow bodily changes that are clues to a medical problem.
A Feline-Friendly, Welcoming Environment
LakeCross Veterinary has taken multiple steps to create a more relaxing environment for their patients. It starts with a “fear-free” reception area for kittens and cats. Allowing cat carriers to be elevated, out of the line of sight of dogs or other cats has been a very effective strategy in the office. A separate reception area with no dogs allows is featured on “Feline Friendly Days” when the doctors at LakeCross Veterinary offer appointments just for cats. The next “Cat Day” at the clinic is Thursday, May 3rd.
“It’s absolutely true that animals can smell fear,” said Dr. Warren. “Eliminating this fear reduces stress, not only for cats, but also for their owners.”
In the LakeCross examination rooms, low lights, toys, cat treats and towels covered in calming pheromones add to the feline-focused environment. Even music has been taken into consideration. Music played in the office has a slower beat, which helps lower the heart rate of cats. This makes it easier for the veterinarians to detect any heart problems.
“When a cat is more relaxed, we can complete a much more thorough physical examination” said Dr. Hemstreet.
National Recognition For Being Cat-Friendly
The staff at LakeCross Veterinary is specifically trained in feline-friendly handling techniques. From simply talking softly and calmly, to recognizing signs of concerning feline behavior, veterinarians and staff technicians play a key role in putting a cat at ease.
The dedication and commitment that LakeCross Veterinary has demonstrated through creating a welcoming environment for cats and through ongoing training led to national recognition by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as a Gold-certified Cat-Friendly Practice.
Making Cat Care Easier
Often the biggest hurdle to feline health care is just getting the cat into the veterinarian’s office. Over 80% of cats are taken to the veterinarian within the first year of ownership. Unfortunately, less than half of these pets are ever brought back for additional care. Unless a cat is showing signs of illness or pain, some pet parents believe veterinary care is not needed. Others think it’s not worth putting a cat through the stress of travel for a routine medical examination. These cats all miss out on essential preventative health care and the opportunity to treat any disorders early, while options are available.
LakeCross Veterinary is dedicated to educating cat owners about the importance of regular checkups and helping to make traveling with a cat less stressful by offering “feline comfort kits”. These kits, designed specifically to keep cats at ease in the car, are available prior to a cat’s appointment, and include a packet of helpful information, a mild sedative, kitty treats, cat nip for positive reinforcement, and calming pheromones that can be placed in a cat carrier during transportation to the office.
“Ideally, veterinary care for cats starts at a very early age so that the kitten gets used to the vet and becomes acclimated to traveling in a cat carrier,” said Dr. Warren. “If a cat is accustomed to going in for routine medical care, there is usually no stress for the animal or the owner.”
It’s never too late for older cats to also be conditioned to the veterinary care and transportation in a cat carrier. Make the carrier a part of a cat’s daily environment. Place it near where the cat eats and also include the carrier in playtime. Short car rides around the neighborhood with positive reinforcement when you return home can help your cat become less fearful of travel.
A History Of Specialized Cat Care
Delivering specialized care for cats is nothing new to LakeCross Veterinary. Eighteen years ago, the practice created the only facility in the region to permanently treat feline hyperthyroidism.
“Ten percent of cats over the age of 10 will develop hyperthyroid disease caused by tumors of the thyroid gland,” said Dr. Hemstreet. “These overactive thyroids place a strain on the cat’s heart, liver and kidneys. As the disease progresses, vomiting and diarrhea can develop. These cats don’t rest as well, become irritable and begin to lose weight at an alarming rate.”
Dr. Hemstreet completed a nuclear medicine sabbatical at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, with a focused emphasis on the feline thyroid patient. He is one of only a few veterinarians in the state who is licensed to treat cats with radiopharmaceutical I-131. This innovative treatment, which has a cure rate of 98% and no side effects, uses radioactive iodine to kill feline thyroid tumors. It is the most effective and safest treatment for feline hyperthyroidism.
A Feline-Friendly Future
As more cat owners understand the importance of routine heath exams their pets, veterinarians at LakeCross are hopeful that more cats will start receiving the care they need and live longer, healthier lives.
“Cat parents obviously love their pets,” said Dr. Warren. “As veterinarians, it’s our job to educate owners why preventive care is so important, to teach them how to more easily transport their cats, and to create a calming, stress-free environment for every cat that comes through our doors.”
LakeCross Veterinary is located in the big yellow house near the intersection of Hwy 115 and Hwy 73 in Huntersville. For more information, go to www.LakeCrossVet.com or call 704-948- 6300.