I continue to be amazed at how our sheltering community believes that programs that serve dogs can also serve cats equally well. Today, I would like to advocate around the notion that we need many, many more low cost wellness clinics for cats only. To be able to say, without regret, “Sorry, This Clinic is for Cats Only.”
Several factors play a role in creating this success; infrastructure, budgeting, better working environment and able to provide community medicine. I would like to touch on each of these components separately.
You can chose many different models of clinics if you are focusing on cats only. You can do stationary, mobile, and MASH style. Mobile works very well in a cat only model, but you do need to be more creative if you are in a community that has high TNR needs, because it is hard to fit a lot of traps on the vehicle. A stationary clinic is great if you have a very high transient population as well has high community cat population. Many organizations have hybrid versions. You can have a stationary clinic with a transport component.
Some good examples of the three clinic types are (some of these are cat/dog combinations and some are cat only):
Dr. Sara White, SPAY ASAP in Vermont
Ruth Steinberger from Spay First
Budgeting is very easy to do in order to predict how successful your model will be. Humane Alliance has a great budget model and you can use excel spreadsheets to help you predict your cost and the quotas that you will need to meet. Before starting any sort of clinic you MUST develop a solid proposed budget. Follow this link to see the many budget planning tools that can be used. This is a fantastic site!
“Cats only” gives you a much better working environment. Did anyone say that dogs and cats don’t mix? Going to the veterinarians is very stressful for both species. Dogs bark and are on leashes. How many times have you gone to the Veterinarians with a cat and people have let their dog be on a loose leash and have them come over to smell the carrier with your cat? I am not going to be mean and say “Get your dog away from us!” But that is what I am thinking!
Then there are smells in the exam rooms. Yes, they get cleaned but it is stressful enough with cats smells left behind (not all smells are removed). So let’s do the best that we can and really encourage more cat-only clinics in our communities.
Often times low cost clinics spend 2/3 to 3/4 of their time assisting dogs. It is a much higher percentage of the practice. These clinics can’t provide affordable dentals, hernia repairs and other procedures that cats need because they get busy with the dogs. Some clinics turn away ferals because they don’t have the time or capacity. If we got the dogs out of the picture we would be able to truly help “the pets of the poor” in our low income communities: the cats!
Veterinarians are stressed out and over-worked. If we could just get them to focus on the cats (wellness and spay/neuter) then I think they would see the impact of their work very quickly. They would be able to manage their work better so that they wouldn’t be faced with so much stress on the job.
We still have a long way to go until we have enough affordable spay/neuter capacity around the country for cats. We need to encourage organizations to mobilize and start new programs so that we will have more access to programs. No slowing down!
We have had such great success with the Million Cat Challenge. Maybe our next goal is the 1,000 clinic challenge? Who is up for that?