Help Clinics Identify “Secret Cats”

Increasing feline preventive care canvalso improve practice health

By Wendy S. Myers


Every veterinary hospital has hundreds of feline patients that are missing preventive checkups. An American Association of Feline Practitioners 2013 study revealed that 52 percent of cats have not received a preventive care exam within the last 12 months.1 Because half of U.S. cats live indoors, pet owners often assume their feline friends live in a perfectly protected world and don’t need regular veterinary care.2

A typical small animal hospital has two veterinarians and sees 3,600 patients annually, with 60 percent dogs and 40 percent cats. If 52 percent of 1,440 feline patients aren’t getting regular checkups, 749 are at risk. While increasing feline preventive care, hospitals also can improve practice health.

The newly published American Animal Hospital Association’s Veterinary Fee Reference, 9th edition, reports that the average adult feline preventive care visit totals $140. The average includes a preventive care exam, 3-year rabies vaccine, fecal examination (centrifugation), FVRCP vaccine, FeLV vaccine and heartworm test.

If the healthcare team gets three overdue cats per week or 156 patients to return for preventive care during the next 12 months, the result would be $21,840 in preventive income. Additional revenue would come from sales of flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. During preventive care exams, veterinarians also may diagnose other health concerns that need follow-up care such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, dental disease, diabetes, obesity and other conditions.

When practices grow feline visits, your product sales also grow – from drugs to diets. Here are two easy-to-implement strategies to get more feline patients to return for preventive checkups:

Partner with clinics on a campaign about overdue cats

Have the practice manager run a report to identify feline patients that are three to 12 months overdue for preventive care or rabies vaccination. Send a combination of email and postal notices to these clients. Offer an incentive for cat owners such as a free rabies vaccine or dose of preventative. To help you plan your marketing budget and to create a sense of urgency among cat owners, limit the free offer to the first 50 respondents.

Here’s a sample email for clients with cats that are overdue for rabies vaccination:

Dear ,

Dr. noticed that your cat, , is overdue for preventive care. Changes in your cat’s health can occur quickly. During a preventive care exam, Dr. will assess which vaccines, preventatives and diagnostic tests that needs.

Virginia state law requires rabies vaccination in cats. Virginia had 516 animals with rabies in 2014, including 28 cats and 1 dog, according to the Virginia Department of Public Health.4 Because rabies can be passed from pets to people, our doctors urge rabies vaccination for all pets.

To help make preventive care affordable, we are offering a free rabies vaccine to the first 50 cat owners through June 30 when you pay for an exam. This value of $24 will help you get up to date. Please call us at 555-555-5555 or click here request an appointment through our website.

Three elements make this campaign effective: 1) Using the doctor’s name brings credibility and authority to the message, 2) Offering a free vaccine valued at $24 (be sure to state the dollar value in your message), and 3) Having a deadline within 30 days to respond motivates clients to take action now. Find online statistics for the number of rabies positive animals by state and county from your state’s department of pubic health.

Teach receptionists to ask about cats at home when clients call to schedule dogs’ exams

Today, 41 percent of dog owners have cats, with the average cat owner having two cats per household.5 When a client calls to schedule her dog’s exam, the receptionist should check the reminder status of all pets in the same household in the practice-management software. If a cat is overdue for preventive care, ask the client to schedule an appointment now.

Say, “Let’s schedule your dog’s preventive care exam. I see that your cat, <cat’s name>, is overdue for preventive care. Changes in your cat’s health can occur quickly. That’s why we recommend an exam at least once a year. The doctor will assess which vaccines, preventatives and diagnostic tests <cat’s name> will need to stay healthy. You can bring <cat’s name> along with your dog to the same appointment. Let’s schedule their exams this week. Which day of the week fits your schedule?”

Cats are America’s most popular pet, with the total U.S. population estimated at 74.1 million, compared to 70 million dogs.5 Your goal is to see every patient every year.

For more strategies on increasing feline visits, order our webinar on “Strategies to Get Cats Back.” For $99 per hospital, the webinar includes one hour of continuing-education credit, unlimited playback, a handout and a CE certificate. Order at


1. Half of American Cats Don’t Get Regular Veterinary Care, Veterinary Practice News, July 2013. Accessed 08-18-13 at

2. Dodman, N. The great debate: Indoor versus outdoor cats. Accessed 05-13-13 at

3. AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference, 9th edition, AAHA Press 2015; p. 82.

4. Virginia Department of Heath, Office of Epidemiology 2014 Positive Animal Rabies Cases Ending: December 28, 2013. Accessed at on 03-27-15.

5. AVMA. U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook. 2012 ed. Schaumburg, IL: American Veterinary Medical Association; 2007:1-27. Accessed on 05-01-15 at