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Posted March 8, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Winchester veterinarian extra-friendly to feline patients

By Sally Voth

Linden Heights Animal Hospital in Winchester has something to meow about.

It is one of seven veterinary clinics in the state to be designated a Cat-Friendly Practice -- and one of just three to meet the gold standard -- by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Veterinarian Joe Schmitt, Linden Heights' Animal Hospital owner, said it received the designation for a variety of its features, including separate entrances and waiting areas for cats and dogs, and its use of pheromone diffusers that help cats feel more relaxed.

"We try to minimize the stress for them as best we can when they come in," he explained. "I don't immediately just lunge [at the pet]."

Instead, Schmitt can offer nervous kitties a sedative, examine them on their owners' laps, or let them stay in their carrier while he lifts off the top.

"You just try to do stuff to minimize the stress and the activity on the cats themselves," he said.

Because some cats find visits to the veterinarian so traumatic, some owners avoid bringing them in, Schmitt said.

"I think cats are getting short-changed on the amount of exams that they're getting as compared to dogs," he said. "It's a matter of trying to make it as easy on the owners and the cats so that they come in [and] so that people don't wait so long before bringing them in."

Schmitt said his staff, which includes five other veterinarians, also discuss how to better treat their feline clients.

"Almost everybody here has a cat as well, so they know how to deal with them," he said.

Plus, there are two live-in cats at the practice.

Sedation can be an option for treating particularly anxious cats.

"That reduces the stress on everyone," Schmitt said. "We don't get hurt. They don't get hurt."

He said the practice received its cat-friendly designation in September.

"[It was] something we could do without having to do a whole lot," Schmitt said. "We didn't have to change everything here."

According to The Cat Friendly Practice Program's website, catfriendlypractice.catvets.com, while there are more cats than dogs owned in the U.S., cats are about two times more likely than dogs to never see a veterinarian. That's partly due to the stress involved, and owners not realizing the need for veterinary care, according to the site.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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