11 ways to increase feline visits to your veterinary practice
When it comes to feline visits to your vet clinic, the situation is probably not very good-looking.
Here are some numbers from The Bayer Vet Care Usage Study:
Over 52 percent of the 74 million cats in the US haven’t visited a vet in the last year.
What’s more, only 37 percent of cat owners take their kitty to a routine annual exam.
And here are some stats from the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, published by AVMA:
Cat population increased by 5 percent between 2001 and 2011.
Feline visits to vets in the same period decreased by 14 percent.
The bottom line?
Cats represent an opportunity.
Although cat owners are interested in getting good healthcare for their pets, there are certain obstacles to this.
Here’s how you can address them:
1. Reduce the stress of bringing the cats to the clinic
The same study by Bayer Healthcare Animal Health states that the biggest hurdle to cat healthcare is getting the animal to the clinic.
And that’s not all:
Over 70 percent of cat owners revealed that their vet never recommended any cat carrier or how to get the cat used to one.
Help them reduce this stress.
Marty Becker, of DVM, says that vet clinics need to make it easy to move the cat from the living room to the exam room.
How can you do that?
First of all, ask clients to get a cat carrier.
Teach your service staff and receptionists to answer questions regarding carriers on the call itself.
Tell the client how they can acclimatise the kitties to the carrier.
Also tell them to moderate food consumption just before the visit to the vet.
You can also lend compression garments for the kitties.
During the appointment, ask them if there was any problem in bringing the kitty to the clinic.
Help them resolve these problems.
2. Make it easy for the animals to acclimatise to your clinic
There are several ways to do this:
Have separate waiting areas and reception areas for cats and dogs, so that the animals do not feel agitated next to each other.
Make sure all the members of your staff know how to handle feline patients.
If the kitties are comfortable during their visit to the vet, it will also increase the client's confidence in you.
If some staff members are liked better by cats, make sure they are available when there is a feline appointment.
3. Provide resources specifically for cat owners
You want to portray yourself as a cat-friendly clinic, so that cat-owners know they can come to you for any feline problems.
Here is how you can do it:
Make it clear to your existing clients that your clinic is cat-friendly. Often, there are multiple pets in a household.
If someone is coming in with their dog, ask them if they have cats.
If they do, you can then start a conversation about getting the kitty a routine exam too.
Besides this, here is what you can do:
Make sure there are cat-friendly pictures in the exam room.
Have cat-related reading matter at the reception.
Give equal screen time to cats and dogs on your website.
4. Make the first visit count
According to this report, 50% of cat adoptions are unplanned.
Most cat owners have no formal instruction related to the needs of their kitty.
83% of cats are taken to the vet within the first year of their adoption, but nearly half do not return.
63% clients claim their vet didn’t tell them about annual exams.
The bottom line?
If you want to make sure the kitty comes back for regular check-ups, make the first visit count.
Educate clients about what their feline friend might need.
Tell them about their habits, lifestyle considerations, diet according to their life stage, socialization etc.
Provide as much information as you can.
Recommend annual exams.
Develop a short speech about new cat adoptions and make sure all members of your staff know it.
56% clients say they would bring their cat to the vet if they knew it can prevent problems in the future.
The bottom line?
You need to explain how regular care can prevent diseases, enable early detection, and help with treatments.
5. Provide special arrangements for cat appointments and exams
Plan ahead for when you have a feline visitor.
Make sure there is an exam room for cats only, as the smells of other animals can agitate them.
Ensure that the room is away from the noises of the reception area.
Try to make the exam room available as soon as possible.
You can also offer specific times of the day or days of the week just for cat appointments.
And if you have the resources for it, you can build a multi-level condo for cats in the special exam room.
Cats often like perching on high surfaces, and this will help them become more comfortable in the clinic.
You can also take it a step further:
Spray pheromones in the exam rooms that are pleasant to our feline friends.
6. Convey more info during the exam
Again, this comes down to informing the client.
If your team doesn’t effectively make the client understand the importance of the visit, they may never come back.
In fact, they may end up deeming it an unnecessary expense.
But it gets worse:
It may lead to noncompliance.
They may not follow your recommendations.
They may forgo follow-up care.
Here’s how you can make the feline appointment more informative:
Narrate the process.
Tell them what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what exactly you are looking for.
7. Educate clients about post visit experience
This is very easily forgotten.
After the appointment ends, tell the client that a visit to the vet can be very stressful for cats.
Tell them why too:
Cats are very sensitive to smell.
If there are multiple cats in the household, they may not recognize their brother or sister.
As a result, they may become aggressive.
Give them tips on how to re-integrate the animal in the house.
You can also check out the AAFP brochure for more tips on this.
8. Reward good behaviour
This goes for both the owner and the cats.
You need to compliment your clients for bringing the cat in for a check-up – no matter how long it has been since the last appointment.
Show collaborative behaviour.
Have positive language, actions, and reactions towards the kitty as well as the client.
Additionally, most cat owners have behavioral problems with their cats.
You can give them some tips regarding the same.
Tell them that it doesn’t help to punish cats, as it can lead to aggression and stress.
You can also tell them to call you if they have any problems or questions in the future.
9. Recommend, remind and follow up assertively
Use the technology at your fingertips.
Call clients if they miss an appointment.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your reminders.
And what about after an appointment?
What can you do to add value to a visit?
Call clients within 24-72 hours after an appointment to check if the cat handled the exam well.
You can also recommend additional resources, like a particular cat food or medicine brand for a particular furry feline.
10. Provide report cards
After an appointment, give clients a report card of the exam.
Tell them what your findings are, and what you recommend.
A written report can emphasize your advice for the pet.
And clients will be less likely to forget any medicine, procedure or the time of the next appointment too.
It makes it more likely for the client to follow your recommendations too.
And they will take their cat to the vet clinic more regularly.
According to this report, 18% clients say they would be likely to increase the frequency of cat visits to the vet clinic if they get a written report.
11. Implement cat-friendly programs
The CFP program for your vet clinic is imperative for elevating the quality of vet care for cats.
It involves several steps including the ones mentioned above.
Lay the groundwork for quality care by intensive education of your staff and vets.
Understand the species information and behavioral peculiarities of kitties.
Acknowledge that unlike dog care, you have to involve clients in cat care, because the misinformation and ignorance related to cat-care is more widespread.
Help vets create a cat-friendly environment.
Develop, enhance, and implement strategies for quality care.
Make sure these strategies are based on a deep understanding of the distinct behaviour of cats.
The bottom line?
Cats are not getting the care they deserve.
And it is imperative that the vet profession works towards rectifying this.
It is good for the kitties, for the clients, and for you and your practice as well.
3. 11 ways to increase feline visits to your veterinary practice
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