P. 658

An Urban Experience
Being able to recognize signs of a relaxed or stressed patient is critical to creating a Fear FreeSM environment. Dogs and cats communicate primarily through visual (body language), auditory (vocal), and olfactory (pheromone and scent) communication.
Often high pitch sounds are considered distance decreasing, meaning coming closer. Examples of distance decreasing sounds in the cat and/or dog are meowing, purring, whines, whimpers, or high pitched barks. Low pitch sounds are generally considered distance increasing, meaning go away. Examples of distance increasing sounds in the cat and/or dog include the hiss, yowl, shriek, deep or guttural growl and/or bark.
Olfactory communication is extremely important to the cat. Each cat has his/her own signature scent. When one cat in the house visits the veterinary hospital, he/she will return home smelling differently. This can result in the resident cat being unable to recognize his housemate.
Dogs and cats release pheromones that can be detected by other members of their species. These pheromones can communicate pleasant and unpleasant information. A stressed cat may leave chemical messages behind that will act to create fear and anxiety in other feline patients throughout the day.
Body Language
Being able to interpret body language in dogs and cats involves not only analyzing the entire pet (facial expression, tail carriage, and body posture) but also assessing the context of the interaction.
Human Communication with Dogs and Cats
Threatening gestures include prolonged eye contact, approaching directly, and distance increasing vocalizations (deep, guttural sounds). To provide our patients with a considerate approach, we should avoid direct eye contact and a direct approach, turn sideways to look smaller and less threatening, move smoothly and calmly, talk slowly and softly, allow the pet to approach you, offer treats if medically appropriate to do so, avoid aversive scents and use calming ones instead.
Associations are being made all the time. Because we tend to be systematic in our approach to veterinary medicine, animals quickly learn the order of things to come. For example, when placed on a table and the tail is touched, the thermometer will follow. When the technician gets the nail trimmers out of the drawer, nail trimming is about to occur. We can create pleasant associations rather than neutral or negative ones with
stimuli in the hospital by pairing pleasant stimuli with a neutral or possibly unpleasant one. For example, nail trimmers can become associated with getting canned dog/cat food. Consequently, the dog or cat becomes excited when he/she sees the trimmers.
Our patients are often more sensitive to environmental stimuli than we are. By taking into consideration how cats and dogs perceive the environment, we can create pleasant experiences and minimize unpleasant ones for them. Through early recognition of behavioral signs of fear, anxiety, and/or stress and intervention on our end, we can prevent the escalation of fear in our patients. Thus, we can facilitate pleasant associations with the veterinary hospital and the procedures we want to perform.
1. Bradshaw JWS. The Behavior of the Domestic Cat, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, 1992.
2. Shaw JK, Martin D. Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses, John Wiley& Sons, Inc., 2015.
3. Lewis H. Online article published September 24, 2015. Accessed on May 19, 2016. not-what-cat-or-dog-gets
4. Beaver BV. Feline Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians, Second edition, WB Saunders Company, 2003.
For more information on the Fear FreeSM certi cation program and resources visit:

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