Welcome to Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center, and thank you for trusting us to care for you and your cat!
In order to make your first visit with us as beneficial to your feline friend as possible, we request your help with a few items. Our staff will be able to give you and your feline friend the best possible care if we are able to get these items out of the way prior to your visit, and if you have a good understanding of what to expect on your cat's first visit to Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center.
If you are coming to UCVC for the first time, please complete the two forms below and review the information in points 3-5:
Preparing Your Kitty for the First Appointment at UCVC
In the event that your cat needs immediate medical attention, don't try to follow these suggestions — just call us (if you have time), get your cat in the carrier by whatever means necessary, and come on in!
Taking the time to prepare your cat for your upcoming veterinary visit can reduce the stress of the visit significantly and result in higher-quality diagnostics. To help you do this, we have prepared a list of actions you can take prior to your visit:
- Get The Right Carrier: There are a variety of carriers on the market. The most important design feature is that the carrier should be easy to open while the cat is inside. You can find this feature in both hard and soft-sided carriers. In general, the easier a carrier is to open, the less stress a veterinary visit is going to place on your cat. One caveat: we do not recommend carriers that only open from the top (such as the ubiquitous cardboard freebies); ideally, you want a carrier that, when open, your cat can walk out of without having to jump. In general, soft-sided carriers are preferred.
We do require all cats coming to UCVC to be in carriers, preferably one carrier per cat.
- Make Your Cat Carrier a Safe Zone: Rather than storing your carrier in a closet or garage, find a place in your home where your carrier can conveniently sit. Make it attractive to your cat with soft, clean bedding (the fuzzier, the better!), catnip, toys, and treats. If your cat already reacts with fear to the carrier, try feeding your cat in the carrier exclusively for several weeks; when your cat will enter the carrier easily, stop the feeding and add the bedding and toys.
- Getting Your Cat into the Carrier: If your carrier is a Safe Zone, this is almost never a problem. If not, you'll need a strategy. We recommend putting warm, fuzzy bedding (or a piece of your clothing with your familiar scent on it) in the carrier, and then placing the carrier into a small room with no other hiding places (a powder room is often ideal for this). Add one cat to the room 30 minutes prior to leaving. Your cat may enter the carrier because it is the only hiding place in the room; if not, you will need to get your cat into the carrier with a minimum of drama. If you have a plastic carrier with a detachable top half (a very common design), remove the top of the carrier, encourage your cat to walk into the bottom tray, and then calmly replace the top. Different carrier styles often require different approaches. Call us for advice if you are having difficulty with this.
- Putting the Carrier into Your Car: Before taking the carrier to your car, cover it with a large towel, such that all the openings are covered and your cat cannot see out. Cats feel safer when they are hidden, and the towel can help greatly with that. The towel will also help retain heat in the winter. The safest place for the carrier is on the floor of the back seat of the car. If this is not feasible, look for a way to wedge the carrier into a spot where it will not budge in the event of a sudden stop. Seat-belting your carrier is NOT safe (unless the carrier is specifically designed for that); crash testing has shown that most seat-belted carriers simply come apart in a crash, providing no protection at all. Do NOT open your cat carrier in your car — cats can wiggle into places that require an auto mechanic for removal. For your own protection, do NOT allow your cat out of the carrier while you are operating the vehicle.
- Understand and Mitigate the Effect Of Your Stress On Your Cat: Cats are little furry stress-sponges. If you are anxious, worried, or upset about the vet visit, your cat will absorb and reflect that stress. Recognizing and managing your own anxiety, dread, or fear before and during the visit is perhaps the single most important step you can take to make the visit easier for your cat.
- Rehearse the Clinical Examination at Home: Your kitty will be much more accepting of having all those body parts handled during an exam if these sensations are not strange and new. Get your cat used to being handled "vet-style" by doing the following at home:
- Handle your cat's paws and ears regularly
- Gently open your cat's mouth often and offer a tasty treat immediately afterward
- Incorporate your cat's legs into your petting routine
- While petting, make sure you touch every part of your cat's torso from neck to tail, including the belly and armpits if you can
- Brush or comb your cat now and then
Start small and never push your cat past his tolerance in the moment. Always reward your cat‘s good behavior with a treat or some playtime. Stick with it, and you'll find that your cat will probably eventually accept whatever handling you do.
- Rehearse Travel: If your cat does not tolerate car travel well, we recommend that you drive your cat around your neighborhood a bit, then head home and reward with treats. Repeat as needed, increasing the distance driven each time as tolerated, always rewarding upon arrival home. This can be a bit labor-intensive, but well worth it when your kitty arrives at the clinic in a calm state of mind.
- Rehearse Your Visit: Schedule a time or times to bring your kitty to the clinic BEFORE the veterinary appointment. Bring your cat's preferred treats. Once in an examination room, let your cat wander without the perceived threat of being handled. (It may take more than one visit for your cat to come out of the carrier — that's ok!) Reward with treats. If things are going well, we can have a technician or assistant come into the room to pet your cat and give more treats. Then head on home. A few visits like this are a great way to change the "OMG WHERE HAVE YOU BROUGHT ME" response to a "Cool, I'm in this nice place where people pet me and give me treats" response. We do not charge for these visits, but we ask that you schedule them with us ahead of time, and be understanding of the need to finish a visit if another patient is coming in. (COVID note: Please review our current COVID-19 protocols and call prior to coming to the hospital.)
- Take Advantage of Stress–Relieving Pharmacology: You've done everything right, but your cat is that special soul who is still terrified before the visit, during travel, or while in the clinic. Take heart; you are not alone, and we can help. We have a marvelous selection of safe and gentle medications to reduce anxiety and stress. Some can be given at home prior to the visit; others can be given with a quick and painless shot in the clinic; some cats need both. No cat should needlessly experience fear or stress. If your cat is that special little purr-sonality that stresses out easily, let us make that all go away with our happy drugs; your kitty will thank you!
What to Expect at your First Visit
Congratulations! You've done a boatload of work to make this visit as easy as possible for your cat. Now you and your cat are approaching our hospital, and so far (thanks to all your hard work!), all is going well. Now for the first visit at Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center!
- Parking: Park as close as you can to the hospital doors. This is not always easy in our busy parking lot, but we want your kitty to be exposed to as little wind, rain, cold, heat, and car noise as possible. There are a few reserved parking spots on the west side of our building (drive past the main parking lot entrance on Walnut). If the only available parking is so far that the walk might be stressful for your kitty, please pull up out front into the pullout built especially for this purpose, and call us on your cell phone. We'll send a team member out to bring your kitty inside, and then you can park and come in at your leisure.
- Front Door: The Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center front doors are designed to keep any Houdini escape artists from finding their way out of the building. When using the automatic door openers, there will be a delay to wait for the first door to close before the second automated door will open. Please be patient. It slows things down a bit, but it is safer for all our visiting kitties. (COVID note: Please review our current COVID-19 protocols.)
- Checking in: When you arrive, come to the front desk and let one of our Client Care Specialists know who you are. The reception area is designed to keep your kitty free of the stresses of seeing other cats or strange people. As soon as possible, we will take you to an examination room, where you can have more privacy and also let your kitty wander around and get comfortable. Since you have already completed our new client and patient forms, there won't be much else you'll need to do — so spend any wait-time relaxing! We have Guest Wi-Fi. (COVID note: Please review our current COVID-19 protocols.)
- Cue the Cat Vet: Now your doctor comes in, settles down and opens a laptop, and the fun begins! Your cat vet will ask tons of questions, answer any questions you have, and may discuss topics of relevance to your cat, such as feline nutrition. During this period, your vet will be (sneakily!) watching your cat while appearing not to; getting a feel for gait, posture, personality, coat quality, and all sorts of other things, while your cat has a chance to get used to the vet's voice, scent, and physical presence. Only then will the examination begin. Your vet may examine your cat on the exam table, or, if your cat is more comfortable there, the floor. After the exam is complete, the assessment and planning phase begins. (COVID note: Please review our current COVID-19 protocols.)
- Blood Pressure: If your cat is 7 or older, after you've spoken with the doctor and your cat has had a little time to get used to the exam room, a technician will come in to take your cat's blood pressure. (We don't routinely do this for cats under 7 unless there is a history of hypertension or another health problem associated with hypertension.) We take the blood pressure before any other handling to avoid artificially elevated readings.
- Our Big Difference: It is at this point that the process diverges from most veterinary practices. Having evaluated your cat's general health and problems (obvious, well-hidden, or just potential), your vet will now go over with you, in detail, every problem found or suspected; and, in detail, each step needed to identify and address those issues. Our mission is to give you the tools you need to make informed healthcare decisions for your cat — information, benefit/risk analyses, and estimated costs. Since no two people or cats are alike, we work to help you arrive at the decision that makes the most sense for you, your cat, and your budget. Only after all your questions are answered and an estimate approved will we move forward — so you can rest assured that your bill will never be an unpleasant surprise. (COVID note: during COVID, the doctor may take these steps in a slightly different order sometimes, depending on your cat's specific needs.)
- Lab Sample Acquisition / Diagnostics: If the agreed-upon plan involves taking blood and/or urine, or other diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, that will come next.
- Some cats are great for this; others can blow their stress meter from zero to sixty in 1.4 seconds. Our caring staff is highly skilled in stress-avoidance, "fear-free" handling techniques, and also in identifying cats who are experiencing light-speed stress accelerations. For these cats, stress-relieving sedation is highly desirable. We have a whole menu of safe and helpful medications to choose from so that you never have to worry about how your cat is feeling. We will never give your cat any medication without your specific approval. If any tests are done in our in-house lab, your vet will get results to you before you leave, or arrange for you to receive them as soon as possible. Otherwise, most results will be analyzed and reported to you within 4–5 business days in a detailed email from your kitty's doctor. Tests with longer turnaround times will take longer to report.
- Treatment: In this next-to-last step, our medical staff will give any treatments needed, such as a vaccination or a medication; and will perform any needed tasks such as pedicures, mat clips, or microchip placement. When all is accomplished, we will place your cat back into your carrier, and you are ready to check out.
- Checking Out: Since you've already seen and discussed all charges, your bill should contain no surprises. We ask that all bills be settled in full when services are rendered. We accept cash, checks, credit cards (MasterCard®, VISA®, AMX®, Discover®), CareCredit® and Scratchpay®. We'll make sure you have any items you need to take home with you, and that you know when you can expect to hear from us about test results. We can print or email you a receipt (please choose email — we like saving trees as well as cats!)
- Schedule any follow-up visits or the next evaluation visit before you leave. Now off you go home, and give your kitty lots of loving, treats, and playtime as thanks for being SO super at the vet! If your visit involved any diagnostic testing, your vet will let you know when to expect a report.
- Post-Visit Reports: We can print or email you a receipt. (Please choose email — we like saving trees as well as cats!) Our reports include in-depth discussions and recommendations as needed and may include informational attachments. This written reporting format provides you with a document that you can read at your leisure, keep, and refer back to, so you don't have to remember every detail of a potentially long and complicated phone call. Questions regarding reports can be handled by email or phone. While email is a better choice for your records, do NOT hesitate to pick up the phone if the question is urgent! You most likely won't be able to speak directly with the veterinarian, but our team members are trained to communicate messages to the vet and respond appropriately.
Approval of Treatment Plan (and Costs) Required Prior to Treatment
We will incur no charges on your behalf, apart from the Office Visit Fee, until, and unless you have reviewed, discussed, and signed or verbally agreed to a detailed, written treatment plan and an associated cost estimate, with the following exceptions:
- Emergency Presentations: If your cat presents as an emergency, we will take any necessary immediate life-saving measures as the first priority, but we will also inform you regarding prognosis and estimated costs as quickly as possible.
- Medical Complications: Should a life-threatening complication occur while a patient is hospitalized, we will take life-saving measures first and contact you as soon after as possible. In the event of complications that are not immediately life-threatening but are likely to result in costs beyond those of the treatment plant that you’ve already agreed to, we will contact you as soon as possible with a report and an updated cost estimate.
- If you have elected to not have us give you an estimate.
- Follow-up blood pressures (that are not part of a Senior Wellness Visit): Since blood pressures are best taken before any other handling occurs, the receptionist may give you a verbal estimate of the cost for that one service, and accept verbal approval for that particular cost.
- The written estimate policy does not apply to individual item purchases, such as medication refills or over the counter purchases such as nail clippers or toys. If we have not supplied you with a treatment plan and associated cost estimate prior to any scheduled procedure, or during a visit, please ask us for one!
Treatment plans and the associated costs are provided in good faith. Once a treatment plan has been agreed to, we will do our best to stay within the estimated costs and expect our clients to be responsible for what they have agreed to. However, treatment plans are just that, a plan and no medical situation is entirely predictable. For some procedures (particularly dental procedures) the range of costs can be wide because the doctor can not always know what she will find until after a cat is under anesthesia. Depending on how things go and what the doctor finds, the doctor may need to revise the plan accordingly. When this happens, we will contact the client as soon as possible to discuss the situation.
To ensure the highest quality of care, we do not double book appointments, surgeries, or procedures. The surgical suite or dental suite or exam room and the associated doctor time are dedicated to that individual patient and procedure for which it was reserved. Currently we are taking deposits for any surgical and dental procedure, and for any diagnostic or therapeutic procedure that involves a visiting specialist, such as a cardiologist or surgeon. Should you need to cancel after scheduling, you must do so within the guidelines for the scheduled treatment for the deposit to be refunded. This timing is outlined when the procedure is scheduled.
If you have any questions about your first visit with us, or what we need from you in advance please call us at (303) 500‑5158.