CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — To no one's surprise, it seems cats don't like going to the veterinarian.

For all their aloof arrogance, a lot of them get pretty freaked out being put in a small box and transported to a strange room with barking dogs and other potential kitty hazards.

And that may explain why 10-year-old Alley behaved so poorly when she went for her regular checkups.

"She's a bit high-strung," said her owner, Kathy Carte of Charleston. "She would growl and scratch. But not any more — now we have tools to help with that."

That's because Valley West Veterinary Hospital in Charleston, where Alley is treated, recently completed the certification process to become a silver-level cat-friendly practice, through a program established by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

"The veterinary visits are seeing far more dogs than cats, and so people were wondering, 'Why aren't people taking their cats to the veterinarian?" said Amy Isaac, a veterinarian with Valley West. "And I think a large reason for that is that it is very difficult to get your cat to the veterinary office. They are scared of the carrier, they're stressed when they come to the environment of the veterinary hospital. Owners are kind of scared to take them, because they know the cat's gonna be fearful."

The program was developed, she said, to help make veterinary visits easier and to educate owners that cats really need veterinary care, too.

"Just like with people, preventative care for cats is much less expensive than treating a problem that's gone undetected for a long time," said Amy Keith, another Valley West veterinarian.

Valley West is one of a handful of practices in the state to complete the certification program. Others include Cross Lanes Veterinary in Cross Lanes, All Creatures Veterinary Clinic in Princeton and Animal Care Center, also in Princeton.

The certification process is extensive and includes 11 different areas of standards each practice must meet. The waiting room, for example, needs to be visually accommodating, with a screen to block crated cats from view and a pheromone spray for calming them down.

Valley West even offers a "kitty concierge service," said Keith, which allows owners to transport the cats directly into private exam rooms rather than exposing them to the sometimes-loud environment of a waiting room.

"I'll offer one of the pheromone towels upon check-in, which they can take out to the vehicle and place over the carrier, and we do recommend the feline high-stress kits prior to bringing the patients in," said receptionist Sherri Adkins, one of several trained cat advocates at the practice.

The high-stress kits provide calming medications owners can sprinkle in their pet's food before the visit, pheromone wipes for the carriers and probiotic formula to prevent upset stomachs.

For Alley, the treatment "takes the edge off and calms her down," said Carte. "She's fully aware of where she is and what's going on but she's not as anxious."

That's important, said both Isaac and Keith. A calmer cat is easier to treat and doesn't experience higher blood pressure or an accelerated heart rate.

Not only that, but the experience is better for pet owners, too.

"It makes me feel better because I know there's not as much anxiety, so it's a more pleasant experience for both of us," said Carte.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail,

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