The vets needn’t be a scary place, as Rachel Crafton discovers.
A vet surgery can be a terrifying place for cats, often with clinical smells, barking dogs and the fear that they are about to be subjected to all kinds of tests. Jaffa’s Health Centre for Cats in Salisbury, Wiltshire, the brainchild of husband and wife team Pete and Jill Coleshaw – with Pete providing the veterinary expertise – aims to eradicate all those fears for cats and their owners.
Jaffa’s offers a home-from-home experience where there are no cold floors, clinical smells, loud noises or dogs, as one of only 12 cat-only vet practices in the UK.
Even Jaffa’s name is one with a comforting back story, as the practice is named after the fluffy ginger cat that belonged to Di Hardman, who came up with several illustrations for the practice.
After running a practice for both cats and dogs around nine years ago, and becoming inspired by an International Cat Care (ICC) competition which showed the benefits of having cat-only vet clinics, Pete saw the huge improvements made to the cats’ care without having a mixed environment. “We decided to have a cat-only clinic, because having cats and dogs together is still a compromise,” says Pete.
The couple conducted plenty of research, both at home and abroad, into ways to make the best possible cat-only practice, including having a ‘smell room’ where anything that smells clinical is kept away from the consulting area, with a consultation room styled like a homely kitchen with a breakfast bar vet table.
And the couple’s hard work has paid off – following the ICC’s guidelines to making their practice as cat-friendly as possible has led to Jaffa’s being one of just four cat-only practices in England to achieve the ICC Gold Practice award.
When a cat patient is first taken into the consulting room, they are let out of the carrier and given the time they need to adjust and explore, with plenty of toys to play with and surfaces to climb. Fresh coffee and tea is also available for owners to give the room a nice homely aroma.
“After a while the cats start to groom themselves and play, the kind of behaviour you never normally see in a consulting room,” says Pete.
There is a private room called Jaffa’s Snug, designed to look like a living room with sofas and a cosy interior, to discuss the cat’s options with the vet in less clinical surroundings. This room is also used if owners want to give their cats a cuddle while they become sleepy from anaesthetic before going into surgery.
There is also the option for owners to stay at the vets while their cat has an operation, with hot drinks available and Internet access.
“Because hospitalisation is such a difficult time, we take the time to show the owners where their cat will be staying, and they can spend quality time with their cat rather than feeling like they are in the middle of a ward,” Pete continues. “We want to have it as you want it for a family member or a spouse, because cats are a member of the family after all.”
In contrast to some traditional vet surgeries where cages can be quite small, Jaffa’s cages are huge with under-floor heating, high shelves, plenty of distance between the cat’s bowls, beds and litter tray and, most significantly, no dogs.
One of Jaffa’s top success stories is that of Eve the cat who was so terrified of going to the vet that it took several nurses to hold onto her and she would take days to calm down afterwards. On her first visit to Jaffa’s she was very relaxed and, on the return trip, there was no struggle getting her into the carrier.
Jaffa’s don’t claim to be the pioneers in this kind of cat-friendly approach to vet surgeries, they have just combined advice and their own expertise to offer the best care they can – giving cats what they need the most to recover – the perfect cat-friendly environment.
To find out more about Jaffa’s Health Centre for Cats, visit www.jaffavets.com or telephone: 01722 414298
Huge thanks to Pete Coleshaw for providing me with the photos for this article.
This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Your Cat magazine and I am very grateful to Chloe Hukin (the editor of Your Cat) for giving me her kind permission.