AAFP grows in service to cats, profession

Offerings from American Association of Feline Practitioners include Cat Friendly Practice program, practice guidelines, annual conference
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The continuing growth of the Cat Friendly Practice program, the release of feline anesthesia guidelines, and a well-attended conference have been among the highlights during the past year for the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The AAFP, which emphasizes that any veterinarian who sees even one cat is a feline practitioner, grew to 4,000 members in 2018. The Cat Friendly Practice program, a benefit of AAFP membership, increased to 1,171 practices. A survey in December 2017 found a 99 percent satisfaction rate among practices that had earned the designation.

The association published the first feline-specific anesthesia guidelines in the July 1 issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (J Feline Med Surg 2018;20:602-634)—the latest in the series of AAFP Practice Guidelines.

Conference attendees interact with a cat
Attendees interact with a cat in the exhibit hall during the 2018 AAFP Conference, Sept. 27-30 in Charlotte, North Carolina, which brought in a total of 1,467 attendees. (Photos courtesy of AAFP)

The 2018 AAFP Conference, Sept. 27-30 in Charlotte, North Carolina, brought in a total of 1,467 attendees. These comprised 1,009 veterinarians, 145 veterinary technicians and nurses, 33 practice managers and hospital staff members, 52 students, and 228 exhibitors and guests. In the wake of Hurricane Florence hitting North Carolina, the association collected donations on-site. The conference focused on senior and geriatric care and on emergency medicine and critical care, along with offering a track on practice management for the first time.

In 2019, Dr. Apryl Steele will assume the office of AAFP president (see story).

Cat Friendly Practice program

The AAFP established the Cat Friendly Practice program in 2012 to minimize stress associated with veterinary visits for cats, caregivers, and the veterinary team. The association conducts an annual survey of practices that have earned the designation. With 526 respondents, the survey at the end of 2017 found that 98 percent would recommend the program to other veterinary professionals, according to a January announcement about the results.

Feline-friendly handling
An attendee at the AAFP conference participates in a workshop on feline-friendly handling, a key aspect of the association's Cat Friendly Practice program.

Respondents also reported the following:

  • Ninety-two percent stated the program has positively impacted their team morale when handling, treating, and caring for cats. Many practices commented that they are now more confident when working with cats, and their whole team has adopted the use of cat-friendly techniques to reduce stress during the visit.
  • Ninety-one percent reported an improvement in feline knowledge and care among team members. Many practices noticed a great improvement in staff understanding of feline behavior, feline-friendly handling, and the ability to read a cat's body language.
  • Eighty percent received positive feedback from clients.
  • Eighty percent increased visits.
  • Seventy-nine percent increased practice revenue.
  • Seventy-five percent reported the acquisition of new feline patients.
  • Sixty-one percent reported a reduction in injuries when handling cats.

Feline anesthesia guidelines

"The overarching purpose of the AAFP Anesthesia Guidelines is to make anesthesia and sedation safer for the feline patient," said Heather O'Steen, AAFP chief executive officer, in a July announcement. "We are committed to improving the health and welfare of all cats and providing this resource to veterinary teams is an important milestone."

Content has been organized under specific topics: use and care of equipment, pre-anesthetic assessment, co-morbidities, critical-patient emergencies, anesthesia and sedation, perioperative complications, and anesthetic recovery.

Drs. Susan M. Gogolski and Sheilah A. Robertson, guidelines co-chairs, said in a joint statement: "By proactively developing an individualized anesthetic plan that considers the uniqueness of each feline patient and recognizing that 'one size does not fit all,' the experience for the cat can be improved and the outcome successful. It is our hope that these Guidelines will become the practice's go-to resource and each team member will have a new awareness of all the tools and techniques available to them."

The anesthesia guidelines, a client brochure, and supplemental resources are available on the AAFP website. See the entire series of AAFP Practice Guidelines.

AAFP conference

The 2018 AAFP Conference took place not long after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina. Although Charlotte is far inland, attendees wanted to know how they could help. The AAFP put up a page on the conference website with suggestions for donating online, and the association collected donations on-site such as toys and cat litter for feline rescue organizations.

The pre-conference day featured a workshop on feline-friendly handling and the annual seminar in partnership with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Each of the three conference days offered two tracks for veterinarians, with the first day also offering the track on practice management and the second and third days offering a track for veterinary technicians.

Dr. Paula Monroe-Aldridge, 2018 AAFP president and a member of the conference planning task force, said the AAFP tries to pick speakers who provide not only the academic side of continuing education but also ideas to implement in practice. The subjects of presentations ranged from Pandora's syndrome and ultrasound techniques to anesthesia and analgesia for older cats and the sedation of critically ill cats.

The association devoted a day and a half to senior and geriatric care, concluding with a Q&A panel of the primary speakers, and a day and a half to emergency medicine and critical care. The track on practice management took on the topics of cat-friendly housing, preventive care, client compliance, and a cat-friendly team mission as well as LGBTQ+ inclusion and mental health in the veterinary profession.

Attendee sports cat ears during a session
An attendee sports cat ears during a session at the AAFP conference. The conference focused on senior and geriatric care and on emergency medicine and critical care, along with offering a track on practice management for the first time.

Related JAVMA content:

The path from a polydactyl cat to the AAFP presidency (Dec. 1, 2018)