Want to make your practice a soothing, less stressful place for your feline patients, but simply don’t have the budget for a large redesign of your clinic? Maybe all you need is a little creativity. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) showed off a few of their cat-and-dog practice members who implemented budget-savvy feline-friendly elements into their practice design. Check out their responses on the pages that follow.
In our endeavor to provide a more feline-friendly practice we modified our facility in three ways.
First, we changed how our feline patients are initially received. Our practice has a large reception area with a fish tank that divides it in half (see right). When a feline patient arrives we attempt to immediately escort them into our feline-only exam room to complete the check-in process. If that room is full we ask them to go to the side of the reception area without dogs and place the carrier on a chair or table.
The second change was designating one of our exam rooms as feline only. It has Feliway diffusers plugged in at all times and has sound panels to reduce internal noise.
Third, we created a treatment and boarding area that was feline only. We used a surgical suite that wasn’t used very often. This area is far away from dog boarding, has lots of windows and light, and is very quiet.
We have a large boarding facility for canines, felines and exotics/birds. We try to reduce stress as much as possible for our feline companions while they are boarding with us by keeping them in an area separate from canine boarders. We spray their cages with Feliway prior to arrival and provide them with hiding boxes to make them feel more secure. We have two “kitty condos” that can be used for hiding, which were purchased from one of our suppliers. These condos are large and don’t fit in most of our cat cages, so we will often just recycle boxes from shipments for the smaller cages. For kitties requiring additional privacy we often hang a curtain over the lower half of the cage door.
We have an odd-shaped waiting room. It’s long and narrow, with a front door and counter at one end and a washroom at the other. All of our clients need to have access to both ends of the room, so we couldn’t completely enclose a cat waiting area. But we wanted to somehow partition the area into two parts—one for cats, and one for dogs—with both using the same entrance by the front desk.
How do you make a sitting area that’s comfortable and safe for cats, but not so separate that cat owners can’t see the front desk and dog owners can’t reach the washroom? We thought about stacking tables or bookshelves in the middle, but it didn’t look right. We finally decided that cube storage would separate the area without completely walling them off.
We didn’t feel comfortable putting up a sign in the cat area saying “No dogs.” Dogs are important to the hospital too. We ordered see-through decals that would adhere to the wall above the waiting areas. The decals liven up what would otherwise be a plain wall, and so far they have worked well in keeping the dogs and cats separate. Our receptionist has a clear view of the seating space and can help direct people to the proper area if they seem confused.
Divide and conquer
At one end of our seating area there’s an island that serves as a coffee bar and storage. The cabinet and space behind it act as a natural barrier from the rest of the seating area, but truly transforming it to cat-friendly privacy was the challenge.
The solution was a trifold room divider purchased from a home decor store. The price range for dividers like these was from $100 to $400. Décor-appropriate fabric panels are attached to the frame with Velcro tabs that make cleaning or replacing them a snap. To prevent accidental tipping over, the screen is bolted to the wall.
With the screen in place, Valley Oak Kitty Lounge is now a private seating area with padded benches and an area rug for coziness. Our clients are appreciative of the secluded space, and hopefully their furry companions have a calmer experience.
Our reception area Kitty Committee members meet with the reception team to remind them that the Kitty Lounge is cats only, all day, every day. We are a general, specialty and emergency clinic that doesn’t close so we had to keep things simple and easy. It was tempting to let things slide when there were no cat clients in the waiting area, but the lines became a little fuzzy. It was easier to remember “No dogs at all” than only when the space was free.