Veterinary Trend: Cat-only Clinics

By Elijah Merrill for The Daily Cat

Dr. Kelly Wright, a veterinarian and the co-owner of The Cat Clinic of Orange County in Costa Mesa, Calif., doesn’t experience daily barking, panting or dog smells in her cat-only clinic. As a result, the stress levels of the cats that come in and out on a regular basis are “two or three notches down,” according to Wright.

“Cats can get very nervous and stressed at a vet visit,” agrees Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a veterinarian and the owner of the Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York City. “If a cat is in a carrier near a German shepherd in the waiting room, it can be so frazzled by the time it gets to the exam room that it can be impossible to deal with. But here it’s peaceful and quiet. They don’t see, hear or smell dogs.”

A Unique Option for Cat Owners
There are no statistics available on how many cat-only clinics have been established across the country, but Internet searches reveal a healthy number of them in most U.S. states. Like the Cat Clinic of Orange County and the Manhattan Cat Specialists, many were designed from the start to be cat-specific. There are no oversized scales, the kennels are consistent rather than varying in size, and the drug inventory is specialized for cat care. “We have a very dedicated staff that cares very much about cats,” says Plotnick. “We’re all cat lovers and I think it shows in our work.”

Plotnick strives to go beyond standard veterinary care, offering wellness programs tailored to four different age groups and providing extensive preventive health services. The Manhattan and Orange County clinics both also offer grooming and boarding services. The Orange County clinic has large-windowed enclosures that overlook the building’s large lobby, as well as multilevel “townhomes” — complete with four-poster beds and skylights — for the most discriminating cats.

Benefits of Cat-only Clinics
Plotnick and Wright note that their decisions to focus only on cats should in no way detract from the quality of care at general, all-species veterinary clinics. A good veterinarian is a good veterinarian, no matter how many kinds of animals he or she treats. For midnight emergencies, a general veterinary hospital will likely remain your only option, but even doctors at general hospitals say that cat-only clinics can have distinct advantages.

“You get the benefit of a vet who has decided to make themselves an expert at this one animal,” says Dr. Trisha Joyce, an emergency veterinarian at New York City Veterinary Specialists. “Also, it probably means that they are better able to invest more in equipment and medical supplies specific to the illnesses cats get. Cats aren’t small dogs, and sometimes the drug options stocked by a general hospital are geared more to dogs.”

Ironically, there’s also a human element that gets addressed, according to Dr. Katy Nelson, a Virginia-based veterinarian. “Cat owners and dog owners are very different creatures in and of themselves,” she says. “So, having a facility that caters to the needs of ‘cat people’ could be very advantageous in dealing with this clientele.”

Plotnick concurs, noting that his clients tend to be “very attuned” and “super-devoted” to their cats. While his decision to focus exclusively on cats inevitably cut a large population of animals out of his business model, it’s a decision he gladly made.

“During my post-grad career, I always had an affinity for cats and became known as a person who enjoyed feline medicine and was good with cats,” he says. “I was comfortable with them and found their diseases and illnesses particularly interesting. When I opened my practice, it seemed natural to do it as cat-specific. And I think it’s worked out very well.”

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Elijah Merrill is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Discover.

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