AAFP/ISFM Cat-Friendly Guidelines

Veterinary professionals worldwide will now have access to two new Cat Friendly Guidelines that promote positive, respectful interactions with their feline patients and reduce the stress associated with the veterinary environment.
Published jointly by the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the ‘2022 AAFP/ISFM Cat Friendly Veterinary Interaction Guidelines: Approach and Handling Techniques’ and the ‘2022 ISFM/AAFP Cat Friendly Veterinary Environment Guidelines’ cover all aspects of a cat’s veterinary experience, including the journey to the practice and interactions with veterinary team members, as well as the clinical environment.
Endorsed to date by 27 international veterinary and feline welfare organisations, the new Guidelines contain a wealth of information and practical tips. Some of the key areas covered include:
• Implementing cat friendly interactions and minimal handling that allows the cat to have a sense of control and choice (and training every team member on how to do this).
• Educating cat caregivers about how to reduce distress when travelling to the veterinary practice (including carrier training). Stressor stacking can affect the entire veterinary experience, so starting a positive experience at home is key.
• Creating an experience that considers the cat’s natural behaviours and altering an approach to each individual cat.
• Creating an environment that considers and implements ways to reduce fear–anxiety, and promotes positive emotions and behaviours that cats find comforting.
• Ensuring the entire veterinary team understands species-specific behaviour and individual differences (and how this affects the entire veterinary visit/experience).
• Understanding how to identify the cat’s emotional state and the subsequent behavioural response (and what to do in each situation).
On creating the new guidelines, Dr Nathalie Dowgray, Head of ISFM, expressed:

‘We are extremely proud of our new Guidelines; they have been a lot of hard work with large amounts of literature to review and multiple time zones to work across, but the effort has been worth it. We hope all veterinarians working with cats will take the time to read them and apply the concepts and ideas to their clinics and to how they personally interact with their feline patients.’

Heather O’Steen, CAE, AAFP CEO comments:

‘We’re excited to launch these Cat Friendly Guidelines to the veterinary community. They will enhance feline welfare, caregiver loyalty and human safety, as well as create more positive veterinary visits for all! They will become the foundation for feline care and the veterinary experience.’

The Guidelines have been authored by experts in feline medicine and behaviour, who have undertaken an extensive literature review and also drawn on the valuable experience gained over 10 years of the groundbreaking ISFM Cat Friendly Clinic (catfriendlyclinic.org) and AAFP Cat Friendly Practice (catvets.com/cfp) programmes. These programmes have had a significant impact on feline welfare, changing the way veterinary professionals around the world treat and interact with cats. Key benefits of the programmes include reduced distress for feline patients, improved recovery times for cats, decreased risk of misleading clinical findings and test results, reduced injuries, higher satisfaction among caregivers, and improved interactions with cats at future visits.
It is the hope of ISFM and the AAFP that all veterinary professionals working with cats adopt the new Cat Friendly Guidelines. These Guidelines represent the gold standard for interacting with cats and creating a cat friendly environment. Veterinary professionals are encouraged to start by making small changes and continuing to incorporate more recommendations over time. The Guidelines, which are free to read, appear in a Cat Friendly Special Issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS) and include a suite of supplemental resources, at bit.ly/JFMSCatFriendly

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