SKANEATELES | Cats do not visit the veterinarian's office as often as dogs, studies show, because their independence often masks their illnesses and their owners often find it difficult getting their pets to travel for a check-up.
That is where clinics such as Animal Wellness of Skaneateles come in.
"We try to make it as positive as it can be for the pet when they come in," veterinarian Megan Williams said. "It's stressful for the owner as well when they bring their pet in to see the vet."
The clinic is located next to Skan-Ellus Drive In on the eastern edge of Skaneateles — in fact, the restaurant is the clinic's landlord — and was established seven years ago, Williams said.
Now, the clinic recently earned Cat Friendly Practice silver status designation from the American Association of Feline Practitioners, of which the clinic is a member.
While the clinic sees "a lot more dogs than cats," Williams said, the distinction is a pretty big deal for clinic and its patients.
She noted the recognition comes at different levels. Gold is set aside for practices that have separate entrances and facilities for cats. Though the clinic does have a separate exam room for cats, having a separate entrance is something it just cannot do in the small space it occupies.
"We're one of the few practitioners in the area that got this cat-friendly designation," Williams said. "We're the only one in Skaneateles. I know that for sure."
To celebrate its honor and let the community know what it does, Animal Wellness will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8 at the clinic on 1661 Genesee St. in Skaneateles.
As well as offering tours of the facility to potential clients, Williams said the clinic will host a variety of vendors it uses for vaccines, medications and other products, including the makers of Feliway, a pheromone that helps relax cats to make it easier for veterinarians to examine them.
Also among the vendors, Vernak Farms will showcase the special foods it offers with which cats can take their medications.
"That's the downside of trying to get medication for your cat," Williams said, noting cats often have a hard time swallowing pills. "It (Vernak product) makes medicating your cat easier."
Representatives from Wayward Paws will also be on hand at the clinic with some of the cats it has available for adoption. Because of that and because of the small space, Williams does not recommend that people bring their pets with them unless they are in a pet carrier.
The open house will also include refreshments and drawings for door prizes. And coming soon, Williams said the clinic will offer a nail trimming special for pet for both its current clients and prospective patients.
One way in which the clinic tries to make its feline patients more comfortable during visits is through Feliway, a device that emits a pheromone that only cats can smell. When they smell it, Williams said, they tend to feel more calm and relaxed.
So, when a cat has to get a vaccine, for example, the pheromone can help the animal stay calm while the veterinarian administers the shot. Owners can also place the product inside a pet carrier to entice their cats into a trip to the clinic and feel more relaxed on the way there.
Williams said the clinic offers a variety of services for both dogs and cats — x-rays, dental work and surgery, as well as regular check-ups and vaccines. She the clinic promotes preventative healthcare for animals, especially since it can be hard to tell when a pet sick until it is too late.
One part of preventative care, Williams said, is as simple as changing a pet's diet because sometimes what animals eat can determine what diseases or conditions they may develop.
"Sometimes you just need the right food," she said.
And for those people who either have a hard time getting their pets into the car to go to the clinic or people who have a hard time getting around themselves, Williams said Animal Wellness can help them.
"We do do house calls," she said. "We've done it."
After graduating from Cornell University in 1996, Williams worked in Syracuse before opening her own practice in Skaneateles. Part of the reason, she said, is she always planned to have her own practice and Skaneateles was "a much handier location" for the Auburn resident.
The other part, she said, is because of an experience she had working for another clinic. One of her cats had to have a leg amputated after it developed a tumor from a vaccine. Williams said the vaccine is found to be fine for dogs but is known to cause tumors in cats.
Yet, she said the veterinarian she worked under refused to change the types and methods of vaccines available for cats, so she decided to go out on her own instead. Her clinic now carries vaccines that are safe and effective for cats.
"I wanted to be able to make my own decisions based on the medical care that I think is best," Williams said.