Preparing for a successful cat exam

It’s no secret that the veterinary clinic makes patients anxious. With cat patients, it can sometimes be impossible to understand what it’s like at home versus in the clinic due to fear, anxiety, and behavior presented towards staff. So, how do you get a better understanding of what happens to your feline patient if he is very afraid?

In their lecture at the 2022 American Association of Cat Practitioners Conference in Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaAnd the Elizabeth Colleran, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice), Margaret Gruen, DVM, MVPH, PhD, and DACVB demonstrated various ways to help make experiences less traumatic for cats, including enrolling clients for pets in the home.

Exam entry

How the patient is described can have weight on how the examination proceeds. For example, Colleran noted, if someone wanted to introduce you to their husband, but said that he is angry and does not like strangers. When you meet them, you will get serious, and your spine will stiffen. This reaction could be the same as with describing a cat, Colleran suggested using softer words to describe patients.

“One of the first messages taken home is to talk differently to your staff about how cats don’t call them angry, vicious, mean or all those other bad words, or maybe use, say, hot,” Colleran explained. He might tone down the message a bit and make sure I’m more relaxed and my team more relaxed when I enter the room.

“These preconceptions we bring into our interactions with cats come from a lot of information we get over time. But they really influence our behaviour, [and] What does our body language look like? And because cats are super intuitive, how it feels to enter the testing room is.”

Because cats are so initiative, your behavior can change the exam. Before entering the exam, Colleran advised the attendees to take a deep breath and exhale and then try to enter the exam room in such a way that the cat felt safer than they thought. This can help make the cat think that she is safe in the room. She even advised to speak in low voices due to her wide hearing and hearing abilities.

Another tip Colleran revealed is to get your employees to stop holding cat carriers by the handle. She offered this advice because, from her personal experience, when she chose cat carriers by the handle, she would sometimes bump into the carrier from the door, wall, or even the car while pulling the patient. Holding the carrier firmly can reduce bumps and help keep felines relaxed when they enter the clinic.

use video

The majority, if not all, of clients own a smartphone, and this provides veterinary staff with insights into a patient’s life that were previously inaccessible. When cats come to the clinic, their fear and anxiety can make it difficult to see the problems the client is explaining. To combat this problem, customers could be asked to record their cat doing tasks such as climbing stairs, jumping on rooftops, and playing with a toy.

“Cats do not behave normally in the clinic [and] We can’t see the same range of normal behaviors we see at home so a big part of collecting data appropriately is communicating with our caregivers. [Getting] The data we need means we have to think about the language we use, and how we ask the questions, Gruen said.

Gruen and Colleran encouraged attendees to record videos to obtain a baseline and monitor progress in response to treatment. They advised that when collecting patient videos, veterinary professionals should make sure to give clients the framework they need to make successful videos. For example, if your patient is wearing a darker coat, advise the client to try to have a video in front of a lighter wall.

They suggested advising patients about the lightning because if the lightning was weak, the veterinary team would not be able to see what was going on, making the video unusable. Videos taken by clients should also be shot at a wider angle. This way, practitioners can get a better picture of not only the cat but its surroundings as well. In a case where a customer sent a wider video, for example, Gruen and her team noticed that the owner’s bed sheet was torn, indicating that the cat was using its hind paws to try to get into the bed, ripping the fabric in the process.

When receiving videos, it is important to store them and provide feedback on each recording. This can help employees stay organized and keep track of everything they see, including any progress. “If possible, we store videos by cat name and date,” Gruen said.

Detailed notes are especially important if the clinic cannot retain the video. One case, for example, included notes on a cat that was seen jumping off the kitchen table. The video showed the height of the counter and the cat jumping to about 3 feet down. A subsequent leap to the couch showed the patient’s initial reluctance and inability to clean the body with his right hind foot.

“Things like that, we won’t be able to see [on video] repeatedly. [Notes] It can help us remember what we want to keep an eye on when they show us how their cat is doing right now, because we’ve started some therapy or that time has passed now.”


For testing, practitioners sometimes must rely heavily on the pet parent for the information they need to evaluate and treat the patient. Getting the type of information you need can be tricky because customers will often give what they think you need. Using video and involving the entire team in cats, the practice can improve the treatment of these patients and improve their quality of life


Coleran E, Groen M. Conducting a cat test: Communicating with clients to get the information you need. Filed At: 2022 American Association of Cat Practitioners Conference, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. October 27-30, 2022.

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