Veterinary services during the COVID pandemic: less stressful for cats and their carers?

Sarah MA Caney, Natalie J Robinson, Danielle Gunn-Moore, Rachel S Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: The COVID-19 pandemic saw major changes to small animal veterinary practice, many of which may have had an impact on stress in cats presented to the clinic. The aim of this study was to examine the nature of feline outpatient visits before and during the pandemic, and examine signs of stress noted in cats before, during and after these visits.

METHODS: A questionnaire was used to gather data on cat owner experiences of visits to the veterinary clinic. Data were gathered on the owner's most recent experience of a consultation, with consultations occurring in February 2020 or earlier coded as a standard consultation, and consultations occurring in March 2020 or later coded as COVID-19 consultations.

RESULTS: A total of 371 responses were received, with 210 coded as standard consultations and 161 coded as COVID-19 consultations. Consultation type varied significantly between standard and COVID-19 consultations ( P <0.001), with emergency consultations more frequent and preventive healthcare consultations less frequent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The area in which the owner and their cat waited also varied significantly between standard and COVID-19 consultations ( P <0.001), with standard consultations more likely to involve time in a waiting room while COVID-19 consultations were often called straight in or waited outside the practice. Most owners notedbehaviours associated with stress in their cats, regardless of consultation type, although trying to hide or escape were noted more frequently for cats seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The findings suggest that outpatient visits to the veterinary clinic were stressful for cats both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some measures taken during the pandemic, for example less use of waiting rooms, could be used alongside existing cat friendly measures to help to reduce stress in feline patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1098612X221124360
Pages (from-to)e667-e671
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Volume24
Issue number12
Early online date9 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • behaviour
  • stress
  • primary care practice
  • consultations
  • COVID

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