The "Cat Crisis" in veterinary medicine, or the drastic discrepancy between the numbers of cats and dogs seen in our clinics, is a hot topic. While the phrase itself may be a little panic-inducing, the statistics don't lie. Cat visits have decreased more than 30% in the last decade. Compared to dog visits in the previous year alone, three times as many cats did not receive any veterinary care.
There are many theories, studies and ongoing campaigns to identify and correct this issue. Many like to blame cat owners themselves and economic woes. In my opinion, billions of dollars are being spent on cat products, toys and hilarious feline themed videos each year-- so it doesn't seem like money is the only issue. I think too many owners just don't understand why regular exams are important, or how to even get their cats to the vet in a safe and minimally-stressed manner. We know the care we provide our feline patients is important, we understand cat behavior, and it's our job to help cats whether they are in our clinic or not. It's up to us to change the public perception on the necessity of preventative care, and I think social media can help.
Here are a few simple ideas to get started:
10. Share Information to Make Coming in Easier
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, 38% of cat owners report being stressed just THINKING about getting their cat to the vet. No wonder we can't get cats in the door! As veterinarians, we need to educate owners before they even get into the exam room. Share helpful tips on how to load cats into carriers, travel safely with cats in the car, and tips to minimize stress throughout their visit.
Consider writing a blog, or making quick posts and graphics to share. Here's an example of a quick graphic you could put along with a blog post!
Need more ideas for cat travel and transportation trips? Check out http://www.haveweseenyourcatlately.com/Visiting_Your_Vet.html.
9. Show off Your Cat Patients
Most of the clinics on social media for have a 90% bias toward dog photos. I'll admit I'm guilty of forgetting to snap pics of my cat patients too. It's so easy to get great pictures of dogs in our exam rooms sitting patiently for a treat, eyes focused on the camera and still happy at the end of the exam. I think we all know that the minute the feline exam is over we quickly usher the kitties back into their carrier. Take an extra minute and get a photo of your cat patients in the clinic, or at least ask your owners to share their photos of their cats from home!
8. Talk about Ways You're Changing Healthcare
Emphasize that there is more to feline exams than just vaccines. Run a daily series for a week showcasing a different aspect of your feline exam- each with a photo and brief description of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Educate owners with posts about your vaccine protocols, especially using AAFP info if you follow the three year recommendations, etc. Highlight a new cat wellness package with routine bloodwork. All of these options can educate your clients about cat health, your commitment to the most recent healthcare trends, and get more patients in the door.
7. Connect with Industry Experts
This is an easy one! There are great groups out there sharing really helpful cat-friendly tips. Connect with them online and share their information. In addition to providing your clients with helpful tips, it reinforces your message and shows that you're "in the know" and connected with these feline oriented organizations. Check out the AAFP/Cat Friendly Practice groups and CATalyst Council to start.
6. Showcase Cats in Need
Another easy win-win-win for the cat, the client, and your practice. Sharing photos from area rescues and shelters can increase adoptions! With any luck, you'll help find a kitty a new home, make a new owner very happy, and see them for care in your clinic.
5. Show off Your Cat-friendly Practice
Even if your practice hasn't been officially certified as a cat-friendly practice, you can still showcase your clinic's more feline friendly features. If you have a special waiting area, cat-only exam room, or special cat-only office hours, post pictures to share this info with your clients. If you need a quick logo-free graphic to share, you can right-click on the image here to download.
4. Promote the Initiative
There are HUNDREDS of statistics on cats, cat ownership, cat health, and the general disparity between cat and dog visits. Try some clever posts and graphics to demonstrate that you're aware of the discrepancy. Emphasize that you're sharing this info with owners because you want their cats to be as healthy as possible, not because you're trying to rake in their exam fees. The "Have We Seen Your Cat Lately" website, as well as Partners for Healthy Pets website (http://www.partnersforhealthypets.org/) have great info and tips.
3. Show a Success Story
Have a successfully-managed diabetic or hyperthyroid cat? A patient you're treating or have cured based on something you found at a routine exam? Try showcasing before and after photos of interesting cases, weigh ins for management of that obese cat (ok all of them), or even just post a photo of a cat when they are in for their exam and bloodwork- and explain why.
Bottom line- share photos and stories. Ask the owner to share what they learned by bringing their cat in- hearing it from another non-vet can sometimes reach even the toughest skeptic.
2. Show off a Service/Procedure
Does your clinic offer dental cleanings for cats? I can't think of how many times I've had owners shocked that this was an option- the services many owners consider standard for dogs are available for cats too- make sure your owners know! If your clinic has the special "kitty condos" for boarding or hospitalization, this can also go a long way into easing owner's concerns about leaving their cat in your clinic even for inpatient procedures.
1. Share the Bond
How many veterinarians and veterinary staff members DON'T have cats? And better yet, how many of us have cats that we actively sought out? I’m guessing the answers to these questions are “few" and "far between.” Our houses are loaded with cats with great stories- from being dumped at the clinic to being saved by our amazing medical skills in their hour of need. They wriggled their way into our houses and hearts, now show off their pics and stories!
Don’t forget the fun stuff too- while dog shaming photos have taken off, internet cat videos still rule. I can’t even start listing my favorites or we’ll be here all week, but a Google cat video search won’t disappoint. Share fun tips, toys and games you’ve used with your own cats, or find them online. There is an entire website on IKEA furniture hacks to create fun environments and cat furniture. AN ENTIRE WEBSITE. Pinterest is literally brimming with cat-friendly material too!
Sharing fun feline photos, tips and ideas can help convey to your audience that you love cats just as much as dogs, even when off the clock. Don’t worry, my friends assure me it DOES NOT make you look like a crazy cat lady.....
May your scrubs be ever covered in cat hair and your Facebook brimming with likes,
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