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Most vets take ALL animals. But how does it work when a Cat Hospital decides to start taking Dogs...?

PAIGE WALLACE - Its a new name and signage for Sellwoods once feline-only veterinary clinic on S.E. 13th Avenue - which is now accepting canine patients, too. Many businesses have changed focus during the coronavirus pandemic, but few so significantly as Sellwood's formerly cats-only veterinary hospital, which recently began welcoming dogs into its practice as well.

 

The Cat Hospital of Portland has treated feline patients since 2004. In December, the clinic changed its name to Cat & Dog Hospital of Portland, putting up new signs outside its main entrance at 8065 S.E. 13th Avenue, while also hiring an additional veterinarian, and undergoing a remodel.

 

Hospital Administrator Wendy Stillwell told THE BEE that the plan includes keeping cats and dogs apart as much as possible. They'll use separate entrances, and occupy opposite sides of the clinic. Cats will be seen on certain days of the week, and dogs on the other days – except for emergencies. Stillwell said the clinic will at all times have at least one feline vet and one canine vet on hand for urgent care situations.

 

The clinic's three established veterinarians will continue to focus on caring for cats. Now, Dr. Steve Kubelun, DVM, has joined the practice as Medical Director, and will handle the new canine patients. He brings 27 years of small-animal veterinary experience.

 

"The Cat Hospital already has a pretty amazing reputation for the level of care they have historically delivered for cats," Kubelun said. "Our goal is to keep that bar as high as possible for taking care of dogs, as well."

He's certified in the Fear Free handling techniques already in use at the clinic, which involves gentle touch, calming surroundings, and giving attention to body language in order to ease animals' anxiety and stress.

 

The 5,000-square-foot hospital is undergoing a remodel to accommodate both species. Stillwell explained that a rarely-used boarding area near the front has become the canine exam rooms, while a spare bathroom and offices at the back were turned into three new feline exam rooms. Cats will enter from the parking lot in the rear, and dogs will come in from the sidewalk out front. A door will separate the two sections.

 

"Practicing keeping the kitties in a calm and quiet area has always been our first priority. We're hoping to bring that same Fear Free [experience] to the dogs," Stillwell elaborated. "Hopefully it'll be a less stressful veterinary visit for all of them."

 

Existing clients who had been bringing their cats to the clinic prior to the change posted mixed opinions on the Cat & Dog Hospital's Facebook page. One respondent was happy about now being able to refer dog owners to the clinic, while several others expressed concerns.

Melissa Perkins lives on Milwaukie Avenue and has been a client of the clinic for more than seven years, where she said her family's two cats received "kind and attentive care". She initially questioned the change, but has since reconsidered.

"My first reaction was disappointment. I like taking our cats to what feels like a special cat club," she said. "But I quickly realized it was because I just like the idea of it. One of my cats is going to be curious and interested and one is going to be stressed and peeved, no matter what the clientele. I'd rather my local vet stay in business!"

 

The decision to extend canine care came out of the coronavirus lockdowns. Stillwell remembers noticing a trend: Family after family adopting a new "pandemic puppy", but then struggling to find a vet who could see their dog.

"The waiting list to get into any veterinarian was four weeks," Stillwell remarked. "Demand for more veterinary care in this area was apparent, so we decided to invite the dogs in."

 

Kubelun, who recently adopted his own pandemic puppy, considers the change an inclusive move to serve a wider section of the community, and to support Southeast neighbors who've added new animals to their households.

"The pets we see are part of the family, and we try and take care of the whole family as one unit," he said. "All the pets included!"


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