Most cat owners will agree that taking a trip to the veterinarian’s office can be a stressful experience for both the cat and the owner. Simply getting the cat into the carrier often ends up in a huge battle of wills — often leaving the cat frightened and extremely anxious.
According to a 2013 study published in Veterinary Practice News, over 50 percent of American cats in 2012 had not been seen by a veterinarian for an annual checkup. The study found that just the trip alone was a major issue — with fifty-eight percent of owners reporting that their cats abhorred going to the clinic.
The majority of cats were so fearful of the carrier and car travel that it ultimately resulted in owners not taking their cats to the veterinarian.Considering that most cats don’t enjoy the trip to a veterinary hospital — and that this reluctance could translate into an owner putting off wellness exams altogether — the services of a mobile veterinary practice can be very valuable. This is especially true for multi-cat households. Many veterinarians offer special discounts for these households, so it’s wise to ask about discount policies when making an appointment.
Because many mobile practices maintain a more flexible schedule than traditional practices, appointments can often be arranged on weekends or early evening hours. Some mobile practices cover emergencies, as well (but be sure to ask ahead of time about services, hours and pricing if you have any concerns).
Costs will be higher
However, it is important to note that the cost of a house call visit will generally be greater than an office visit. Fees are higher because house call veterinarians usually can make only a limited number of calls, limiting the number of clients they can serve. Additionally, the cost of gasoline and travel is factored into their higher fees.
And keep in mind that there are some situations that do require a full service clinic. A house call veterinary service is not the ideal choice when advanced diagnostic tests or hospitalization may be necessary. “In these cases, I do prefer the convenience of being in the hospital so that my supplies and all my diagnostic equipment are at my fingertips,” explains Erin Holder, DVM, owner of Florida Wild Veterinary Hospital in DeLand, Florida. Therefore, the optimum strategy is for owners to use a full-service clinic that also provides a mobile service.
Dr. Holder feels strongly that a house call visit can often alleviate the typical stresses of a regular office visit. Additionally, she feels that she can help resolve some difficult feline behavior problems that the owner may be experiencing by observing the interaction between the cat and the owner in their home environment.
“For most of my feline patients, the trip to the office alone is sufficiently stressful to cause physiological changes — including changes in blood values and anxiety — and this is before I have even examined the patient,” explains Dr. Holder. “Examinations and routine blood and urine testing in the home eliminate trip anxiety. In addition, cats typically are much more relaxed in their own environment with the sounds and smells to which they are accustomed.”
Being able to make mobile visits is crucial to Dr. Holder’s practice. “I set out to get to those patients that could not otherwise get to me. What I realized is how wonderfully many of my patients responded to staying in their home for treatment. I deeply care about how the cats feel during examinations and diagnostics, but unfortunately I can’t tell them that I am trying to help,” says Dr. Holder. “But by offering house calls, I have the opportunity to let the cats choose where they feel most comfortable. By diminishing their stress, I am gaining my patient’s trust.”
Dr. Holder feels that the relationship with her human clients is also impacted positively during house calls. “Because clients are inviting me into their homes, the trust often develops much more quickly. House calls are less hurried and this allows more time for me to better get to know my clients.” – Jo Singer