Objectives: The importance of the effects of stress on cats is well recognised, with visits to the veterinary clinic a common cause of stress. The aim of this study was to explore owners' experiences of stress, both for themselves and their cat, during veterinary visits, and to gather data on owners' perception of resources within the clinic to reduce stress in their cats.
Methods: A questionnaire aimed at cat owners with recent experience of an outpatient visit to the veterinary clinic was developed and distributed. Questions covered demographics; their most recent veterinary visit; their general experience of visits over the past 3 years; measures taken by the clinic to reduce stress; and awareness of the Cat Friendly Clinic programme. There were various question types, with owners often asked to rate stress from 1 (least stressful) to 10 (most stressful).
Results: A total of 277 respondents gave details about their experience of consultations over the past 3 years. Owners rated the stress of travelling to the clinic, other animals in the waiting room and the consultation itself (all median 6, interquartile range 4-8) as the most stressful elements. Most owners reported gentle methods of removing the cat from their carrier; however, almost a third (n = 81/263; 30.8%) had seen their cat scruffed during a consultation. Cat-only waiting rooms were viewed as the most effective measure to reduce stress in the clinic.
Conclusions and relevance: Veterinary clinics are already taking steps to address stress in cats, and owners have a good awareness of stress in their cats. Future work should focus on trialling specific interventions to determine their effectiveness in reducing stress in feline patients, and measures currently perceived by owners to be highly effective, such as cat-only waiting rooms, should be used where feasible.
Keywords: Stress; behaviour; clinical examination; consultations; primary care practice.