Hospital increasing efforts to help cats
by Joshua Maloni
Few humans enjoy going to the doctor's office.
Even fewer cats relish a trip to the vet's office.
They cry, stick their noses into the cat crate door or try and wiggle their way out of the side slits.
And that's just in the car ride to the vet's office.
Once inside, they see or smell other animals (Dogs!?! Who invited them?), and quickly seek shelter.
The typical vet's office experience is uncomfortable for cats - and ever more so for their owners, who feel bad for their pets and struggle to provide comfort.
Vet visits are necessary to maintain a cat's optimal health. Yet, the experience can be so daunting, many cat "parents" often skip appointments.
"There are more cat pets than there are dog pets. Yet, 70 percent of what we see come in for exams on a routine basis are dogs," Dr. Kristen Ruest said. "So we don't see nearly the (same amount of) cats. Cats are coming in every three years - or not at all, ever, because they get stressed easy, and people don't want to stress their cats. They don't want to take them out of their house.
"But they do need physical exams. They do need checkups. Cats hide their disease very well. So you don't know there's a problem until sometimes it's too late."
Ruest's practice, The Village Vet of Lewiston, was recently awarded a $20,000 "clinic makeover," courtesy of Novartis and Onsior. Funds went toward reconfiguring her year-and-a-half-old office so that its feline patients - and their owners - could have a more positive experience.
"Making a cat-friendly environment - making sure that they're comfortable when they come here - is a big part of what Onsior, Novartis, they were trying to do," Ruest said. "Making people aware that your cat can go to the vet and be comfortable at the same time - a lot of the improvements were aimed at that."
When visiting The Village Vet of Lewiston, cats will receive medical attention in a safe, relaxed environment (no dogs allowed!).
"We actually have two cat-only exam rooms to help cats feel safer," Ruest said. "They don't have the other smells. We do our exams in baskets to help cats feel like they're hiding and feel secure, along with the pheromone diffusers that are in the room to help them feel like they're in a safe environment."
One cat exam room has a saltwater aquarium. Ruest can analyze felines as they're perched in front of their "fish TV." The second room has a kitty tree, which cats can climb, hide under and play with as they're evaluated.
In addition, "Our new cats cages - our cat condos - have already come in handy and made a difference for the feline patients here for surgical procedures. It keeps them separate from other animals in a quiet, very comfortable area," Ruest said.
Dr. Kristen Ruest stands next to the saltwater tank inside her cat exam room. (photo by Joshua Maloni
The Village Vet of Lewiston held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to celebrate the clinic's new look.
Juan Angel, associate brand manager for Onsior, said the renovation "will help create a warm, inviting environment for pet owners and their pets."
A centerpiece is a larger saltwater tank, which is situated next to the reception desk and cat treat shelves.
"One of the unique design features of the aquarium is that it will be shared with the feline exam room," Angel said. "We all know how cats are curious creatures. So that will really enhance their experience. It will be really cool for them and for the cat owners."
"We just love the saltwater tanks and the joy it brings to our clients and patients already," Ruest said.
"Another important enhancement is the addition of the new surgical equipment that will be used for spay and neuter surgeries," Angel said. "This equipment will allow Dr. Ruest and her staff to perform these types of surgeries in a safe and timely manner, and that will result in less time under anesthesia. This is important for cats, as it will make it safer, and it will allow for faster recovery times."
In winning the makeover, The Village Vet of Lewiston was afforded the opportunity to work with BDA Architecture, a New Mexico firm that exclusively designs animal-care facilities (more than 700 in total, across 45 states and 11 countries).
"Our role in this really was a support role, to help the veterinarians and staff here identify cat-friendly features that we were familiar with that they could incorporate within the facility here," said BDA Architecture CEO Wayne Usiak. "I must say they've done a great job - not only in the things that we've accomplished with this funding, but the hospital being only a year old, they've really done a great job.
"This is a great community asset you have here."
Angel said The Village Vet of Lewiston has "done a great job of using those funds to really make the clinic a cat-friendly clinic."
Usiak pointed out, "there's been an increasing awareness about feline-friendly practices," and a move toward creating a "fear-free practice."
"Onsior should be congratulated because we've heard a lot of companies talk about it, but they're really the first company that's stood up and walked the talk, and taken part in this initiative," he said. "And they've done all the heavy lifting, really, in supporting this and funding this, and putting a lot of staff effort into doing it."
Angel said the goal of aesthetic upgrades and medical advances is to help cats.
"We believe that creating a feline-friendly clinic goes beyond just the functional elements that we see here today," he said. "Those are a big part of that - like the waiting room, exam room and surgery rooms. It also includes feline-friendly products, practices and protocols - like the use of Onsior."
Onsior is an NSAID or corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drug used to combat post-operative pain and inflammation associated with orthopedic surgery.
Ruest and her staff "care a lot about their cat patients and managing their pain," Angel said.
"I just want to thank Novartis for this fantastic opportunity to improve our animal hospital and benefit the feline patients that we have come here," Ruest said.
A portion of the funding will allow The Village Vet of Lewiston to partner with Community Cats Alive, a local volunteer feral cat spay and neuter program.
"Focusing on helping our community was very important, as well," Ruest said. "We've already started to volunteer with Community Cats of Western New York to spay and neuter and vaccinate feral cats in our community. With our new anesthesia machine and surgical equipment, we will continue to improve the lives of the feral cats in their own communities so they can live there and reduce the cat population."
Ruest is accepting new patients, but there is about a two-week wait. To make an appointment, or to learn more about the practice, call 716-754-8838 or visit www.thevillagevetoflewiston.com.
The Village Vet of Lewiston is located at 720 Cayuga St. (behind Rite Aid).
The Village Vet of Lewiston's new look. (photo by Abby-Mae Songin of Barefoot Soul Photography)
The second cat exam room (photo by Joshua Maloni)
The first cat exam room's "before" ...
... and after.
(photos by Abby-Mae Songin of Barefoot Soul Photography)
•Find more photos by Abby online at www.facebook.com/barefootsoulphotography