Better boarding solutions for veterinary practices: Get them out of jail!
On the most basic level, animals need a safe, secure, and physically healthful environment. And going forward, I believe the emphasis will shift to providing housing that is psychologically healthy, reinforces positive behavior, and provides for a balance of social interaction and a secure environment.
Click here to view a photo gallery of housing solutions and study the list below to set goals for pet housing in veterinary practices:
Housing happy dogs
Generally, the natural environment for our four-legged companions is the home. And practices that have built real-life rooms report that the animals are calmer, less destructive or aggressive, quieter, and less likely to soil their living space. Of course, if the animal is to be conditioned not to soil his home, then he must have an outdoor space that he can use appropriately.
Housing happy cats
You know there are lots of practical reasons to keep stress low: Stress inhibits immune function. Stressed cats are more difficult to handle. And it's important to your clients that they know their cats are receiving the best possible care.
And a lot of the stressors that cats experience are very avoidable. Here are some concrete steps veterinary practices can take to keep cats' happier.
> Provide your feline patients with enough space. Small, square metal cubes just don't cut it. Overly limited spaces deprive cats of any defensible space and don't even allow enough room for a cat to fully stretch. Studies show that each cat needs 11 square feet of space to reduce blood cortisol levels, or about twice the space that has traditionally been allotted. This is especially important for boarded cats, because cats need a three-foot separation between their litter and their food.
> Keep the noise down. How? Separate cats from dogs. House cats in quiet spaces away from commotion. Use extra insulation in your wards and ceiling materials that dampen noise. And make sure your cat boarding facilities don't sit near sources of low frequency vibration such as air handling equipment.
> Make cats feel safe by offering them a way to block their view. Simply putting a shoebox in a cat cage can significantly lower a cat’s stress level. In your hospital, you may need to keep cage fronts open, but consider a partial visual block such as a suspended hand towel on the cage front to make cats more comfortable.
Overall, veterinarians have a tendency to view cage housing in a hospital as a pragmatic solution. And while the changes being made to cage environments may seem minor, but they can and do improve the experience for the animals. And lower stress can help you help them more.