Thursday, January 09, 2014

Thank you, Cat Practice!

We are so blessed to have quality health care for our cats - The Cat Practice at  1809 Magazine Street in New Orleans.

As should be obvious, The Cat Practice specializes in feline medicine - not dogs, iguanas, birds, or fish.  So, it's pretty apparent that they know cats!  And boy, do they ever!

We've brought six cats to them (five pets and one to be adopted out) over the past three or four years or so - including a couple of very difficult cases to diagnose.  There are many, many wonderful things about The Cat Practice:

  • Top-Notch Feline Medicine. Both doctors, Cousins and Dunn, are experts in the field.  Dr. Cousins in particular lectures around the country.  The staff is professional, efficient, compassionate, and extremely competent.  The office is well-organized and well-run.  We have brought cats to both doctors and have a wonderful rapport with both of them.  You can tell right away that these are experts.  We are always amazed to watch both of these outstanding veterinarians at work.  
  • Methodology and pricing.  You might think that the prices would be prohibitive compared to local general vets.  But this is not the case.  In fact, there is a great sensitivity to the fact that we have to pay for the services rendered, and unlike human medicine - in which costs are buried and hidden in the insurance system - pricing has to be up front.  We have found that The Cat Practice has such advanced diagnostic tools and methods that you can generally get information back - sometimes within minutes - that help guide where to go next in diagnostics and treatment.  There is never pressure or deliberate running up the bill.  The doctors always consider how to make treatment affordable.  The options are laid out in full, in writing, and the doctors will assist in prioritizing procedures to determine exactly what tests to run, and exactly how much money to spend.  And thanks to the diagnostics that they are able to run, there isn't the "try this, try that" groping about in the dark that we've experienced with other veterinarians.
  • You are not a number.  The doctors and the staff understand that they are dealing with people in addition to dealing with animal medicine.  We are always treated with professional courteous respect, but with great warmth and familiarity.  They know our names, they know our cats, they treat us like we're part of their own family.  Nobody likes to have to go to the vet, but going to The Cat Practice is unlike our other experiences in dealing with vets and animal hospitals (and we do have a lot of experience!).
  • They are kind and compassionate!  The entire staff, from the receptionists to the techs to the doctors, are not only competent and professional, but pleasant to deal with.  We always end up laughing with the staff and the doctors and often become engrossed in medical discussions.  The doctors do not talk down to us, but actually teach us as they go.  They appreciate questions and informed discussions - which are never rushed.  
  • Community relationships.  The Cat Practice has relationships with area pharmacies and other doctors.  The doctors will immediately get on the cellphone to give special instructions to pharmacists and other specialists if need be - right then and there.  We are always completely involved in these conversations and it speaks volumes about the respect that The Cat Practice enjoys in the community.
Both doctors are open to communications by phone or email.  In spite of their busyness, they make the time to follow up with us regarding our cats.  They make use of cutting-edge drugs and treatment, and they entrust us to administer the medicines ourselves by carefully teaching us how to give care from home. 

This past fall, our oldest and dearest feline friend, Vicar, became very sick.  It was obvious that he was at the end of his life of more than 14 years.  Dr. Cousins ran diagnostics that confirmed that Vicar was suffering with cancer and pancreas disease.  But observing Vicar's will to live and our closeness with him, we all agreed to try a few things that could extend his life.  We decided against surgery or heroic measures, but there were things we could do to get him to eat again and possibly get him back to a stable level of health as his life drew to a close.

Amazingly, we were able to get Vicar to eat again.  The doctor prescribed what is essentially ground up cow pancreas to mix with Vicar's food in order to assist in his digestion.  By using this and an appetite stimulant, he was able to start eating again.  We did inject food into him for a couple days to get things started.

We knew that his days were numbered, but thanks to Dr. Cousins's compassionate and competent care, we had an additional couple months with our dear friend, with a good quality of life.  It gave us time to say our goodbyes and to treasure our time with him.  He had been through a lot with us, he was the household's alpha male and chief steward of the home.  Dr. Cousins could have, on the one hand, pushed us to take extraordinary measures and try to pressure us to run up a big bill.  He did nothing of the sort, and in fact, recommended against any kind of surgery.  On the other hand, he could have just offered to euthanize Vicar right then and there.  But he did not want to give up yet.  He even took pictures of Vicar, and commented on his robustness in the face of serious illness.  He did not use the word "will to live," but it is apparent that Vicar was willing to work with us to try to help him.  He trusted us and understood that we were trying to help him, and he expressed his appreciation and his desire to be with us in spite of our having to administer medication to him.

Finally, the day came when we had to bring Vicar to the cat practice for the last time.  Leo had never been through this experience, and it was not easy.  The staff was wonderful.  Dr. Cousins was "pastoral" with us, and that is not a word that I use lightly.  We were given as much time and privacy as we wanted.  We stayed with Vicar to the very end.  Dr. Cousins spoke kindly with Leo, with great compassion, but with great respect as well.  As a pastor, I am with people in the midst of death.  I was very impressed with Dr. Cousins.

We even received a follow-up call from Dr. Cousins to check on Leo and to give us some additional information about Vicar's illness.  We received a card, signed by doctors and staff, that included an inked paw print from Vicar.  They also made a donation to the SPCA on behalf of Vicar.

In their business, I'm sure it would be easy to become callous, to see the animals as objects, to treat people as almost an annoyance - the way our human healthcare system often seems to be.  But they don't.  That is not by accident.  It is their conscious effort combined with their genuine love for cats, for the owners, and for feline medicine that makes them different.  We can't imagine going anywhere else for veterinary care.

Grace and I have joked about visiting Drs. Dunn and Cousins for our own health care.  They're excellent doctors, and we like the way we're treated when we go to The Cat Practice.  One day, they may be shocked to find us waiting in the treatment room clad in a hospital gown and with no cat with us.  If only our human healthcare system was as humane, competent, and committed to excellence as The Cat Practice!

In all seriousness, we are grateful for The Cat Practice, and if you live in the New Orleans area and have cats, we can't recommend them enough. In the long run, you will spend less money and get far superior care to many other more general vet practices.

As a postscript, one of our cats, Walmart, made The Cat Practice's 2014 calendar.  She is depicted in the black and white picture in the lower right corner of November.

Walmart - Miss November

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