Cat Friendly Practice resounds

American Association of Feline Practitioners keeps growing with program
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Cat owners who recently visited the Martha Stewart, Today, or CNN websites might have seen advertisements promoting yearly check-ups for cats or the possibility of a less stressful veterinary visit.

The advertisements connect cat owners with the Cat Friendly Practice program from the American Association of Feline Practitioners. The AAFP is expanding public outreach to promote routine feline preventive care as well as the CFP program. The program has grown dramatically since starting in early 2012.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners is running advertisements such as this one on popular public-facing websites to encourage cat owners to bring their pets in for yearly check-ups. (Images courtesy of the AAFP)

Membership in the AAFP, a prerequisite for participation in the CFP program, increased 72 percent in the past three years to 3,308 as of Sept. 29. Attendance also was up for the AAFP’s annual conference, Sept. 18-21 in Indianapolis.

Cat Friendly Practice

According to the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III: Feline Findings, which came out in 2013, 78 percent of practice owners agree that cats represent one of the most significant missed opportunities for the profession.

“If what you really want to do is create a healthier, more prosperous business, then you need to reflect on the fact that increasing feline visits is the single biggest opportunity to grow a small animal practice,” said Dr. Elizabeth J. Colleran, an AAFP past president and a member of the task force behind the CFP program.

“The true value is in improving the health care for cats,” she continued. “We know that we’re not catching illnesses early.”

By August 2012, the AAFP had designated 191 practices as cat friendly, with another 447 practices in the process of earning the designation. As of August 2014, 670 practices had earned the cat-friendly designation, with another 639 practices in the process. Practices must earn the designation again every two years, and 90 percent of early adopters have repeated the process.

Recently, the AAFP produced two series of educational videos relating to the CFP program. A series of eight videos helps veterinary teams make cat-friendly changes in practice. A series of three videos for cat owners promotes routine preventive care and the CFP program.

In addition to providing marketing toolkits for cat-friendly practices, the AAFP puts out an electronic newsletter for cat-friendly practices every other month. Content includes educational tools such as presentations for staff meetings and marketing tips such as advice on how to use social media more effectively.

The AAFP has been doing some regional marketing to the public via the advertisements on big public-facing websites.

“We’ve had some really great success with that in terms of driving people to the search engine for cat-friendly practices,” Dr. Colleran said.

The AAFP plans to assess the entire CFP program in the spring to determine how to develop additional resources for practices and identify future marketing initiatives for cat owners.

Conference, guidelines

The AAFP’s annual conference attracted 724 veterinary professionals and 138 exhibitors and guests. The focus was feline gastroenterology and endocrinology. The task force that planned the conference wanted to present the latest research and techniques related to disorders of the digestive and endocrine systems that practitioners see day in and day out, chair Dr. Heide L.G. Meier said.

AAFP conference attendees
The AAFP’s annual conference in September attracted a total of 862 attendees.

Key sessions covered chronic small intestinal disease, pancreatitis, hepatic lipidosis, constipation, hyperthyroidism and the kidney, hypothyroidism, and diabetes. A panel brought together representatives from cat-friendly practices to discuss their experience with the designation process.

Dr. Meier said the AAFP continues to offer feline tracks at other veterinary conferences and is working on adding tracks at more conferences.

In other activities, the AAFP and International Society of Feline Medicine recently produced the AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior in Cats. The AAFP and ISFM also produced a brochure on the subject for cat owners.

The AAFP website is here.

Related JAVMA content:

AAFP president sees opportunities in feline medicine (Nov. 15, 2014)

Cat-friendly message targets public (Nov. 15, 2013)

Herding Cat Owners (Sept. 1, 2013)

Solving the cat riddle (March 15, 2013)