The PURRfect Environments for Your Cat

​​​​​​​Fear Free Summerlin Cat Hospital

Article by Jennifer Bradley and Dr. Anna Daffara

Photography by Courtesy of Summerlin Cat Hospital

Originally published in Red Rock City Lifestyle

Summerlin Cat Hospital, located at Trails Village, 9691 Trailwood Drive, is a new full-service, fear-free cat care hospital in the community of Summerlin. Its mission is to take the "pet" out of petrified. 

Dr. Anna Daffara is a feline veterinarian with an "unrelenting passion and curiosity for feline care." She and her team use certain tactics to help cats relax –for a stress-free visit. Cats need special attention, especially when it comes to preventative care, as yearly check-ups are important due to most diseases being caught during basic exams.

“Over the past year, I have noticed there has been an increasing number of cats seen at animal hospitals. And I wanted a place that could elevate some fear and anxiety for those individual cats,” Dr. Daffara said. 

“I love to see cats thrive. I love seeing kittens and then as they get older. It’s fun to watch their transformation and treat them year after year.”  

Dr. Daffara has been practicing in the field of veterinary medicine for more than 16 years and recently opened her own practice specializing in August of 2021. Her expertise includes being a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and holding certifications in both Fear Free and Feline Friendly Handling.

Meeting The Needs of Your Cat – Five pillars of a healthy feline environment, by Dr. Anna Daffara

Environmental needs include a cat’s physical surroundings encompassing indoors, outdoors as well as social interactions with people and other pets. Meeting environmental needs may avoid stressors that can cause unwanted behaviors and impact mental health. 

1. Provide a safe place such as a cardboard box preferably with sides around it, raised off the ground, and a roof to enable the cat to feel safe and secure. The cat should have the ability to exit and enter the space from at least two sides if it feels threatened. There should be at least as many safe places sized to hold a single cat as there are cats in a household.

Your cat’s safe place is a private area that allows it to retreat and feel protected; it provides a sense of security. Cats like to get up high where they can observe their environment, especially when there’s been a change or when they are frightened.

Provide your cat with a few different options, including open resting spaces such as shelves or windowsills, as well as enclosed resting spaces such as high-sided beds or boxes. You can encourage your cat to use these spaces by making them comfortable, for example, by covering the area with fleece bedding.

2. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources such as food, water, litter boxes, scratching areas, play areas, and resting/sleeping areas. These areas should be separated from one another, so all cats have free access without challenges from other cats in a household.

3. Provide the opportunity for play and predatory behavior. This behavior allows cats to fulfill their natural need to hurt. This can be accomplished with the use of interactive toys that mimic prey, such as feather and fur toys. Introduce interactive play, so they learn to avoid going after your hands and feel for play. Use food puzzles or food balls to mimic the action of hunting for prey. This requires considerable physical activity and mental engagement.

4. Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat social interaction. This can be seen as interactions such as petting, grooming, being played with or talked to, being picked up, and sitting or lying on a person’s lap. It is important to remember that every cat interacts differently and to respect the cat’s individual preferences.

5. Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of being small. Cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surroundings to maximize their sense of security and comfort. Cats mark their scent by rubbing their face and body, which deposits natural pheromones to establish boundaries within which they feel safe and secure. The use of synthetic pheromones, such as Feliway, can mimic a cat’s natural pheromones and provide a calming effect in a stressful situation. Threatening smalls and the inability to rub their scent can sometimes lead to problematic behaviors such as passing urine or stools outside the litter box, spraying, and scratching in undesirable areas.

Meeting the environmental needs of each cat will improve cat welfare, optimize health care delivery, and support the relationship between cats and their owners.

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