Cat Friendly Practice Program takes off

American Association of Feline Practitioners growing with program
Published on
information-circle This article is more than 3 years old
Dr. Rodan examining a cat with owners present
Dr. Ilona Rodan chaired the task force that developed the Cat Friendly Practice Program. (Courtesy of Dr. Ilona Rodan)

Hundreds of veterinary practices are participating in the Cat Friendly Practice Program, less than a year after the introduction of the initiative by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

“We have come a long way and made some great headway into improving the care of cats and their owners,” said Dr. Elizabeth J. Colleran, spokeswoman for the CFP Program.

The aim of the AAFP initiative is not only to elevate feline veterinary care but also to increase routine veterinary visits for cats. The recent Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study found that 40 percent of cat owners had not taken their cat to a veterinarian in the past year, although almost all veterinarians in the study recommended that cats be seen at least once a year.

Membership in the AAFP, a prerequisite for participation in the CFP Program, has increased 35 percent in the past year to 2,579. Attendance also was up for the AAFP’s annual meeting, Sept. 20-23 in Seattle.

CFP Program

Cat Friendly Practice logoThe AAFP launched the CFP Program in mid-January at the North American Veterinary Conference. As of early October, 61 feline-only practices and 140 small or mixed animal practices had earned designation as a cat-friendly practice at the silver or gold level. Another 473 practices were going through the approval process.

Dr. Colleran said, “One of the things I hear a lot is that it’s not only been good for them in terms of how they think about cats in their practices, but it’s been a real team builder for the practice, because they’ve come together around a recognition that they can do a better job for cats and their owners.”

The self-paced, online program has 10 areas of criteria for designation as a cat-friendly practice, with educational tools for each area. Dr. Colleran said practices might meet some criteria already but need time to meet other criteria. Participants have asked the most questions about how to rearrange a reception area to be less stressful for cats.

Dr. Colleran’s two feline-only practices, one in California and one in Oregon, each earned certification as a cat-friendly practice at the gold level. She said the certification process ensured that everyone was on board with the program.

The AAFP is offering continuing education on cat-friendly practice at national veterinary conferences, including its own meeting and the Nov. 16-18 conference of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. A speakers bureau is in the works to offer CE on cat-friendly practice at state and local veterinary conferences.

Early next year, the AAFP plans to roll out public outreach for the CFP Program.

Dr. Colleran said the program continues to evolve. New resources will include practice marketing materials and a video library, and a new portion of the program will focus on preventive care.

“The thing that people were excited about at the meeting was that they not only could go through the process, but it would never be over—there will be more resources and more opportunities for learning in the future,” Dr. Colleran said.

The CFP Program website is Practices must have an AAFP member to participate.

New partnership

During its annual meeting, the AAFP announced a partnership with Bayer HealthCare LLC to help uncover and remove obstacles to routine veterinary visits for cats.

“If cats are seen more regularly, better care can be provided, especially relating to preventative care,” said Dr. Donna Stephens Manley, 2012 AAFP president.

The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study was the impetus for the partnership, said Ian Spinks, president of Bayer’s Animal Health Division in North America.

“Bayer HealthCare looks forward to partnering with the American Association of Feline Practitioners to explore and address the reasons why pet owners seek veterinary care less frequently for their cats than for their dogs,” Spinks said.

Feline resistance is a major factor, according to the Bayer study. One potential solution, also part of the CFP Program, is educating cat owners on methods to make bringing their cat to a veterinarian less stressful.

Annual meeting, other activities

Dr. Smith
Dr. Roy Brenton Smith
Dr. Brown
Dr. Marcus Brown
Dr. Zislin
Dr. Arne Zislin


Dr. Manley
Dr. Donna Stephens Manley

The AAFP meeting attracted 547 attendees for sessions primarily on feline surgery, dermatology, and complementary medicine.

Dr. Kari Mundschenk, chair of the meeting task force, said complementary medicine was a new subject for the meeting.

“Our clients are asking about it. On a day-to-day basis, I’ll have people come in and ask about it,” Dr. Mundschenk said. “This type of complementary medicine goes everywhere from nutrition to nutraceuticals to herbal and then on down to your acupuncture, chiropractic, laser therapy. I feel that it was important to at least get an introduction to people so that they can at least know what their clients are asking about.”

Dr. Mundschenk’s feline-only practice in Florida has earned designation as a cat-friendly practice at the silver level, but her goal as medical director is to meet the additional criteria to reach the gold level. She said her practice has made changes such as rearranging the boarding area and teaching the staff more about feline handling.

“I have found that the staff is just so much more involved now. They are coming up with ideas,” Dr. Mundschenk said. “Once they see the benefit, it makes their job easier, too.”

In other activities, the AAFP recently approved two new position statements relevant to feline welfare.

“Free-Roaming, Abandoned, and Feral Cats” states that “The AAFP supports the welfare of all cats, and strongly supports public education and efforts to promote responsible care of unowned, abandoned, and feral cats.” According to the document, the AAFP supports various approaches to population reduction.

“Positive Reinforcement of Cats” states that “Cats learn best through positive reinforcement.” The document discourages punishment of cats for undesirable behaviors and offers tips on reinforcing desirable behaviors with rewards.

The position statements and other informational resources are available on the AAFP website,

The 2013 AAFP officers are Drs. Roy Brenton Smith, Round Rock, Texas, president; Marcus Brown, Arlington, Va., president-elect; Arne Zislin, Leawood, Kan., treasurer; and Donna Stephens Manley, Chapel Hill, N.C., immediate past president.