Recognising stress in feline patients is imperative in promoting patient welfare and ensuring a safe experience for both the patient and veterinary worker. This study looked at whether veterinary professionals were confident at recognising stress in feline patients and whether they could adapt their handling methods accordingly. It also addressed whether veterinary workers were satisfied with the training they received on the subject during their qualifications. Finally, it looked at whether veterinary professionals were aware of the Kessler and Turner Stress Scoring System and whether an updated version has a place in current practice. It was evident from the responses of the questionnaire that there is a gap in veterinary curricula when it comes to teaching ‘feline friendly’ methods and that most professionals confident in minimising stress for their patients have developed their techniques through experience and through owning cats themselves.
Veterinary visits can be extremely distressing for feline patients. Lloyd (2017) stated that this is undesirable from a welfare perspective, as well as having a negative impact on immune function and recovery, and an increased risk of injury to staff. Acutely, the stress response is a defensive mechanism and helps to protect the cat from external dangers; however, long-term stress can cause physical and emotional damage. It is also already proven that stress can influence clinical parameters of cats in practice, including heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature (Horwitz and Rodan, 2018). Quimby et al (2011) added that blood glucose, lactate, platelets and white blood cell counts, among others, can also be affected, making it more difficult to correctly diagnose and treat them as it is unclear whether the changes are as a result of stress or clinical disease. Cameron et al (2004) added that several stress factors contribute to the development of feline idiopathic cystitis, highlighting the negative impact stress can have on feline health.