The Coastal Star

Paws Up for Pets: Couple fills void with clinic for cats only

Drs. Jeffrey and Stephanie Karpf examine a cat in their West Palm Beach clinic. Photo provided

By Arden Moore

Since childhood, I’ve always had at least one cat. However, Casey is the first orange tabby I’ve ever adopted and he meets the common attributes associated with this colorful feline: outgoing, mischievous, friendly toward dogs, quick to learn and playful.

He aced his training to become a certified therapy pet so he can walk on a leash or ride in a pet stroller for our goodwill visits to schools, hospitals and nursing homes. And, in his role as Pet Safety Cat Casey, he purrs while students wrap him in towels, place him correctly inside pet carriers or check his pulse during the veterinarian-approved pet first-aid classes I teach all over the country.

But Casey is no Goose. For those of you who have watched Captain Marvel, you will know what I am talking about. Goose is the scene-stealing orange tabby in this blockbuster movie that stars Oscar-winner Brie Larson. And, he just may boost the popularity for cats all over, much like what happened for Labrador retrievers with the release of Marley and Me, or Great Danes when the movie Marmaduke was unleashed.

“I enjoyed the movie because it was a cat, not a dog, who was featured, but I predict there will be a sudden uptick in orange tabbies named Goose,” says Stephanie Karpf, DVM, who operates the For Cats Only veterinary clinic with her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Karpf, in West Palm Beach.

“We discovered that a lot of families who have dogs and cats would not take their cats to the veterinarian and that is simply tragic,” says Stephanie, who met her husband while they earned their veterinary medicine degrees at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y.

In fact, seeing an unmet need is what inspired the couple to take over the For Cats Only practice four years ago from a retiring veterinarian after a decade of doing pet house calls and working in a dog-cat veterinary clinic.

“There is no wagging tails or kisses to your face because the patient went for a car ride, as it is with many dog patients, but I love the atmosphere of our cat-only practice that is quiet with classical music playing,” says Karpf. “I think I am a better feline veterinarian because of the greater sensitivity I have to know what a cat needs to get through an examination.”

Most felines are treated to half-hour visits. Inside the exam rooms, they are placed in or handled with towels spritzed with feline-pleasing pheromones that human noses cannot detect. The staff employs handling techniques designed to reduce stress, fear and anxiety — especially in what Stephanie Karpf describes as “spicy” cats.

“We get a lot of spicy cat referrals from other clinics because they may be deemed dangerous to handle due to elevated stress levels,” says Karpf. “For these cats, we give them a quick, light sedative so we can do the necessary treatments and then give them a shot for them to wake up and go home without being stressed out. We book hour appointments for these cats and try to give plenty of time to answer any questions clients may have about them.”

Educating clients is an ongoing mission here. Each month, the clinic’s website features the Karpfs’ white-and-gray cat who inspires the popular Nigel’s Blog, written from the cat’s point of view. Recent topics include causes of skin disease, the real meanings of purring, the pros and cons of pet probiotics and the dangers of string toys.

The Karpfs adopted Nigel, now 3, from a second-chance foster group. Stephanie had hoped Nigel would become the office cat, but his desire to ambush ankles of visitors and staff got him the safer position of cat blogger. He now stays at home with their other cat, Cecil, a black-and-white cat who loves to cuddle and lounge on laps.

Karpf dispels two myths about cats:

Myth 1: Dry food is best

“It is a myth that cats need to eat dry food to keep their teeth clean,” she begins. “Most cats swallow kibble whole, so there is no direct impact between kibble and dental health. However, cats who eat canned food are less likely to have urinary tract infections, kidney disease or be overweight. They get water in the canned food so they are less likely to be dehydrated than those cats who only eat kibble.”

Myth 2: Cats act out of spite

“People mistakenly think that when their cat pees on the rug or their bed, it is because they are mad or full of spite,” Karpf says. “But when cats start urinating outside the litter box, it is due to a urinary problem or a behavioral issue. Both warrant talking to your veterinarian to resolve this issue before it escalates.”

2019 may be designated as the Year of the Pig, but the pet popularity title these days belongs to cats. Sorry, doggies.

“I find cats so relaxing,” Karpf says. “If I have had a tough day, I can count on Cecil to climb in my lap and start purring. I can feel my blood pressure lower.”

More cat-only veterinary clinics are popping up around the country, and the latest trend in professional pet-sitting is to cater only to feline clients.

And that suits cats named Nigel, Cecil, Casey and yes, probably even Goose, just fine.

To learn more about the For Cats Only in West Palm Beach, visit vetforcatsonly.com.

Arden Moore is an animal behavior consultant, author, speaker and master certified pet first-aid instructor. She hosts the Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting ardenmoore.com.

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