Worldwide medical and scientific journal for animal health professionals
Veterinary Focus

Issue number 29.1 Finances

Being friendly to cats… is it worth the effort?

Published 11/04/2019

Written by Pere Mercader

Also available in Français , Deutsch , Italiano , Português , Română and Español

The adage “a cat is not a small dog” is as true as ever, and many veterinary clinics seem to be geared more towards treating dogs than cats. Pere Mercader reviews recent research that looked at how being a “Cat Friendly Clinic" can be good for business.

Being friendly to cats… is it worth the effort?

Key Points

Many cats find a trip to the veterinary clinic stressful; this encourages owners to avoid visiting the clinic, and can create a vicious circle.


A recent survey identified that there are many advantages in being accredited as a “Cat Friendly Clinic”.


Introduction

Figure 1. A vicious circle can develop because cats are stressed when they visit a clinic, so that their owners tend to avoid or postpone these visits, resulting in veterinarians seeing cats less frequently than dogs.
Figure 1. A vicious circle can develop because cats are stressed when they visit a clinic, so that their owners tend to avoid or postpone these visits, resulting in veterinarians seeing cats less frequently than dogs.

Cats have a unique nature and certain specific needs, which can make visits to a veterinary practice stressful for them, for their owners and for the veterinarians. This can potentially generate a vicious circle in which because cats are stressed when they visit the clinic, their owners tend to avoid or postpone these visits, resulting in veterinarians seeing cats less frequently than dogs and, as a consequence, becoming less used to handling them properly (Figure 1).

To address this issue, the International Society of Feline Medicine 1 designed a program — the Cat Friendly Clinic, or CFC 2 — to help veterinarians create a more pleasant experience for their feline patients and clients (Figure 2). The program includes information and support materials to help the interested clinics achieve a higher standard of cat care and to obtain the corresponding accreditation.

Royal Canin recently asked VMS1 (Veterinary Management Studies) to perform a research project with the goal of answering the question: are Cat Friendly Clinics able to generate a stronger bonding with their feline clients when compared to “standard” clinics? A summary of the research methodology, the key findings and the main insights that were obtained are set out below.

1 www.estudiosveterinarios.com

Figure 2. Ensuring that the veterinary team makes both cats and owners feel welcome at the practice is a key component in the Cat Friendly Clinic Program.
Figure 2. Ensuring that the veterinary team makes both cats and owners feel welcome at the practice is a key component in the Cat Friendly Clinic Program.

Research methodology

VMS analyzed all the economic transactions of 8,490 feline patients from a sample of 29 accredited Spanish “Cat Friendly Clinics” between 2015 and 2017. These were compared to the economic transactions of 123,674 feline patients from a second sample of 537 Spanish practices that were not accredited as Cat Friendly, across the same period. Statistical checks were performed to validate that both sample groups had a comparable geographic and size distribution to avoid these factors confounding the research results. In Spain there are currently 94 Cat Friendly Clinics, within an overall total of 5,350 veterinary centers. The key findings are best represented in graphic format, as shown.

Possible future research themes

Future research could aim at validating the hypothesis of a cause-effect relationship by studying the trend of these results before and after achieving CFC accreditation. From a clinical perspective, it could also be very valuable to measure compliance levels and overall health indicators in the feline patients of these clinics, the hypothesis being that this stronger bond should also result in better well-being. As an example, the research showed a higher percentage of sterilized cats in the Cat Friendly Clinics. Additional insights could also be gained by interviewing or surveying the feline owners who attend these clinics, to better understand their satisfaction levels and the key differential factors that drive Cat Friendly Clinics.

Key findings

• Cat Friendly Clinics attract a higher percentage of feline patients.

% of feline patients vs. total active patients

 

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 20.8% 21.2% 21.8%
Non cat friendly 17.6% 18.1% 18.4%1
Total 17.8% 18.2% 18.6%
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,0139)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

• Cat Friendly Clinics generate a higher percentage of their revenue from feline patients.

% of clinic revenue coming from feline patients

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 20.3%
20.8%
20.8%
Non cat friendly 15.6%
15.8%
16.0%1
Total 16.0%
16.1%
16.4%
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,0030)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

• Cat Friendly Clinics achieve a 30% higher frequency of visits with their feline patients.

Average number of transactions (visits) per year per feline patient

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 3.36
3.45
3.62
Non cat friendly 2.65
2.68
2.781
Total 2.70
2.72
2.84
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,000002096)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

• Cat Friendly Clinics achieve a 12% higher average transaction value with their feline patients.

Average transaction in € value for feline patients

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 52.40
53.81
54.22
Non cat friendly 47.84
48.49
48.531
Total 48.20
48.92
49.00
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,002964)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

• Feline owners spend 45% more per year at Cat Friendly Clinics than for cats presented at “ordinary” clinics, and the gap is increasing with time.

Average yearly spending per feline patient

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 176.29
185.90
196.50
Non cat friendly 126.80
129.74
135.01
Total 129.95
133.27
138.96
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,000000008484)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

• 40% more owners of feline patients buy petfood at Cat Friendly Clinics.

% of feline patients buying petfood at least once per year

2015 2016 2017
Cat friendly 28.2%
29.7%
30.4%
Non cat friendly 21.6%
21.2%
21.8%1
Total 22.0%
21.8%
22.3%
1P-values (95% confidence level): (1= 0,0001048)

*CF: Cat friendly; **NCF: Non cat friendly

The results show that Cat Friendly Clinics are successful at establishing a higher-level bond with their feline patients. This translates into more cats visiting these clinics, a higher frequency of visits, a higher spend at each visit, and a higher total spend per year. In the meantime, given the above results, it would seem reasonable to conclude that being friendly to cats definitely pays off!

References

  1. https://icatcare.org/isfm accessed 21st November 2018
  2. https://catfriendlyclinic.org/ accessed 21st November 2018
Pere Mercader

Pere Mercader

Dr. Mercader established himself as a practice management consultant to veterinary clinics in 2001 and since then has developed this role in Spain, Portugal Read more

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Research methodology

VMS analyzed all the economic transactions of 8,490 feline patients from a sample of 29 accredited Spanish “Cat Friendly Clinics” between 2015 and 2017. These were compared to the economic transactions of 123,674 feline patients from a second sample of 537 Spanish practices that were not accredited as Cat Friendly, across the same period. Statistical checks were performed to validate that both sample groups had a comparable geographic and size distribution to avoid these factors confounding the research results. In Spain there are currently 94 Cat Friendly Clinics, within an overall total of 5,350 veterinary centers. The key findings are best represented in graphic format, as shown.

Possible future research themes

Future research could aim at validating the hypothesis of a cause-effect relationship by studying the trend of these results before and after achieving CFC accreditation. From a clinical perspective, it could also be very valuable to measure compliance levels and overall health indicators in the feline patients of these clinics, the hypothesis being that this stronger bond should also result in better well-being. As an example, the research showed a higher percentage of sterilized cats in the Cat Friendly Clinics. Additional insights could also be gained by interviewing or surveying the feline owners who attend these clinics, to better understand their satisfaction levels and the key differential factors that drive Cat Friendly Clinics.

Key findings

• Cat Friendly Clinics attract a higher percentage of feline patients.

% of feline patients vs. total active patients

Research methodology

VMS analyzed all the economic transactions of 8,490 feline patients from a sample of 29 accredited Spanish “Cat Friendly Clinics” between 2015 and 2017. These were compared to the economic transactions of 123,674 feline patients from a second sample of 537 Spanish practices that were not accredited as Cat Friendly, across the same period. Statistical checks were performed to validate that both sample groups had a comparable geographic and size distribution to avoid these factors confounding the research results. In Spain there are currently 94 Cat Friendly Clinics, within an overall total of 5,350 veterinary centers. The key findings are best represented in graphic format, as shown.