Cat Friendly Veterinary Practices

By Tammy Hunter, DVM; Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM

I have read about Cat Friendly veterinary Practices. What does this mean?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) is committed to advocating for excellence in healthcare for cats. It is an organization that fosters ongoing knowledge in feline medicine and provides its members with resources and continuing education. Membership in the AAFP is voluntary, and those veterinarians who are members are communicating their dedication to their feline patients.

The AAFP launched the Cat Friendly Practice program in 2012, providing a specific pathway through which a veterinarian and veterinary healthcare team can objectively demonstrate their commitment to tailor their practice to the special needs of cats, as well as to enhance the quality of care that cats receive in their practice. Cats present their own medical challenges and unique healthcare issues; Cat Friendly Practice program provides guidance to the veterinary healthcare team to address those needs.

Why do cats get stressed when visiting their veterinarian?

There are a number of reasons that cats get stressed out by visits to the veterinarian:

  • They are very place-oriented, meaning they prefer the safety and comfort of their own space and feel very vulnerable when they are removed from their home environment.
  • Most cats prefer peace and quiet and tend to be solitary creatures.
  • They are often not trained to accept their transport carrier.
  • They can be stressed by unusual sights, smells, and sounds.
  • Seeing and smelling dogs or other cats in a veterinary practice can be very upsetting for them.
  • Because cats are exquisitely susceptible to stress, many of the experiences associated with a visit to the veterinarian can make them very anxious.

Once a cat is stressed or anxious during a visit to the veterinarian, she may object to being handled by strangers and resist. This resistance may result in greater restraint during examination, further escalating the cat’s anxiety.

Medically, feline stress and anxiety make it very difficult to accurately assess the patient. Stressed cats may mask any pain they feel. Laboratory values can be altered by stress, potentially delaying an accurate diagnosis of illness.

What does it mean for a veterinary practice to have a Cat Friendly Practice designation?

In order to earn the Cat Friendly Practice designation, a veterinary practice must demonstrate that they have taken specific steps to understand cats’ unique needs and that they have implemented feline-friendly standards of care. They will have made design decisions or changes specifically to decrease the stress associated with a cat’s visit to the practice. There will be a cat-only reception and waiting area, and cat-only examination rooms. The veterinary healthcare team will have undertaken training to better understand how to approach and handle feline patients in a quiet, gentle, and compassionate way. A Cat Friendly Practice has the appropriate equipment and ability to care for hospitalized cats in a way that is as comfortable as possible for those cats.

"A Cat Friendly Practice is committed to making your cat’s healthcare delivery more pleasant for both you and your cat."

A Cat Friendly Practice is committed to making your cat’s healthcare delivery more pleasant for both you and your cat. Your veterinary healthcare team will provide you with input to help you contribute to making the trip to your veterinary office easier for your cat. Each Cat Friendly Practice has at least one “Cat Advocate” on staff to ensure that your cat’s care is coordinated within those feline-friendly standards. It is possible to become a Cat Friendly Practice and not be a cat-only practice, but the cat-only practice that is also Cat Friendly has taken their commitment to felines to an even higher level. There are two levels to the Cat Friendly Practice Program - Silver and Gold. You can view the full requirements for a veterinary practice to achieve the Cat Friendly Practice designation on the AAFP website (, as well as search for a veterinary practice in your area that has achieved Cat Friendly Practice status.

Cats need to see their veterinarians for preventive care. It is recommended that cats be seen by their veterinarian twice per year. Cats age faster than humans do, so their health status can change within a relatively short period of time. Early detection leads to early cure/resolution of most diseases, and the only path to early detection is regular veterinary evaluation. You can make regular veterinary assessment as easy as possible for your cat by seeking out a Cat Friendly Practice.

Related Articles