Lifelong cat lover, Jo Lewis MRCVS has always been one to go the extra mile. Six years ago she took this literally and started the UK’s first mobile veterinary clinic dedicated to cats, aptly called The Cat Vet Home Visiting Clinic.
It’s clear when meeting Jo, that she has an innate passion and understanding of all things feline. Even before vet school, Jo dreamed of working in a cat only vet clinic but after a “light bulb moment” she decided to take this one step further and visit cats where they feel most at ease, their home.
She explains, “As a lover of all things feline, I had always felt uncomfortable and constricted by traditional vet practice. For me there was more to treating cats than simply addressing their physical health. It's just as important to establish what makes them tick, but that's not easy in a busy practice with limited consultation time. It was frustrating and upsetting to see stressed cats brought in by equally anxious owners. I guess I just felt that there had to be a better way”.
“Besides the obvious convenience, many cat owners feel as I do, that there's a strong connection between physical and mental health. I can't think of a single condition where consideration of a cat's psychological needs isn't integral to the management of its physical needs. Immersing myself in a cat's habitat gives me an extra insight into its lifestyle and behaviour. I can study the way they move, what resources they enjoy (or lack), and even how they interact with their owners – subtleties that are missed in a consulting room. From this, I can tailor a plan to look after those needs”.
Many cats arrive on The Cat Vet’s books with long overdue check-ups and vaccinations, their owners having reluctantly abandoned stressful, unsuccessful visits to their local practice. “I really do see an awful lot of cats that have had one or two failed visits to their local traditional vet practice and have never been back. Subsequently these cats fall through the cracks and eventually get “forgotten” by these practices”, Jo says. “It is so satisfying to examine and treat these ‘feline outcasts’ at home, knowing that they would have otherwise missed out. On the flipside, the worst feeling is when someone finding me for the first time asks for an at-home euthanasia and says they wished they they’d found me years ago because their cat hasn’t been taken back to the vet since they were neutered 19 years ago! Why?… not because they didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to provide good veterinary care, but because they couldn’t bear to put them through “that” experience again. These poor cats have had to battle all the ailments that old cats suffer from on their own – I actually find this more upsetting than knowing I’m ending their life!”
Many cats come to Jo with bad experiences of vets in the past. She explains that “One look at their medical records often reveals a history of gauntlets, crush-cages and heavy sedation”. She clearly understands as a long time cat owner herself, where other cat owners are coming from. “The only thing worse than seeing your cat stressed or uncooperative at the vet is hearing the vet say ‘we’ll just take Evil Edna out the back and get one of the nurses to hold her’” Jo says. She adds, “Of course some practices are far better than others and adopt a cat-friendly approach to even the most challenging cats. Having worked in plenty of busy and stressful practices, my experience has been that many vets are under immense time constraints and are often highly stressed, perfectionistic and task driven individuals. Sometimes the cat’s long term welfare and the desire for a successful “result” seem to take precedence over what’s the best for the cat’s immediate welfare”.
Jo finds with the right “cattitude” she can achieve far more than can be done in a practice consulting room and most importantly the cats seem so much happier. She regularly sees what effect reduced stress has - more accurate heart rates, blood pressure and glucose readings. Jo explains “Only last week I saw a dear little old grey tabby on tablets for a thyroid problem. At her previous vet clinic, she was a nervous wreck by the time she arrived and had to be sedated for every blood test. She was as good as gold at home and even let me check her blood pressure afterwards which was completely normal. It genuinely made my day!”
Not all the cats Jo sees are elderly or suffering with long term illness – she sees plenty of young and healthy cats, many of which are rescue cats. She also offers a compassionate end of life palliative care service and peaceful home euthanasia. “The difference I can make to the cats and people in these sad times is palpable”.
In today’s modern world people are busier than ever and opting for convenient ways of finding up-to-the minute advice online and are after services that offer home delivery. “I haven’t had to advertise. I spend a lot of time updating my website and social media so this tends to do most of the advertising for me. I also rely on recommendations from all my existing clients and then there’s my van signage”, Jo explains.
Jo’s alternative way of vetting is not just aimed at reducing stress for cats. Just like cats, we (the people who love them) come in all shapes and sizes. We all lead different lifestyles whether it’s being retired, working from home or juggling young children. Jo’s service is a vital part of the local community for those cat owners suffering from chronic illness or disabilities.
If you are fortunate enough to live on the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire, then have a look at what The Cat Vet Home Visiting Clinic could do for you and your cats www.thecatvet.co.uk. You’re your support and follow The Cat Vet on social media: Facebook www.facebook.com/thecatvet or Twitter @thecatvet
*** Jo has a special introductory offer for ProtectaPet customers. If you mention us when registering with The Cat Vet you will receive 50% off your first visit. ***