No Dogs Allowed At Frederick Cat Vet
Orange cats are the new black. And black cats are the new … video. Go to YouTube and search “cats.” You’ll find cats in a bathtub, at a picnic, playing with babies and goats, and sparring with cucumbers and other vegetable foes. Click, sit back and enjoy the afternoon. Makes you purr, doesn’t it?
Humans, it seems, can’t get enough of cats, virtual or real. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 25 percent of U.S. households have at least one cat; many have multiple cats-in-residence. That makes for good business for Dr. Mike Karg who established Frederick Cat Vet in 2006. His practice on Liberty Road is dedicated to, yup, cats only. And, his feline-centric business model is thriving.
Cats-only practices started popping up in the 1970s and Karg says he didn’t realize until he was in veterinary school that such a practice was an option. He always had an affinity for cats, but, of course, completed his studies and internship examining and treating animals of all kinds. However, when it was time to open his own practice, “Cats chose me,” he says. He is now a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and can focus his professional growth. “It’s easier to keep up with all the advances in medicine,” he says.
Frederick Cat Vet bills itself as gentle, complete veterinary care for the felines in your family. It is the sole feline-only veterinary practice in Frederick County. Karg says the practice is designed from the point of view of cats, clients and veterinary staff who work together to foster health and well-being. Dr. Lisa Wolkind joined Karg in 2011 and together with a staff of six assistants they provide exams, diagnostics, consultations and procedures including spay, neuter, intestinal, urinary bladder surgeries and tumor removal. They offer wound care, complete internal medical workups and even dental cleaning and tooth extraction. They do outpatient procedures and provide referrals for overnight care if it’s needed.
The office is set up to remove stress from feline patients as much as possible. Cats can be sketchy travelers and feel vulnerable in their carriers when they are placed on the ground or floor. So the office has pedestals and side tables strategically located to help them feel more secure. The entire space is cat-friendly; no dog sightings, sounds or smells to upset or provoke. The staff is adept at approaching, handling and comforting all breeds, ages and stages— from kittens to seniors.
LIKE CATS AND DOGS
Pet owners can be passionate, forming strong opinions and stoking the age-old cats-vs.-dogs debate with all the ferocity of, well, cats and dogs. Which makes a better pet? Karg stays out of the center of the debate. “We don’t make value judgements. The biologist does not ascribe beauty to one or the other,” he says. Rather, he offers biological and historical context for the real and perceived idiosyncrasies of felines, including a few myths.
Myth #1: Cats are sneaky. “Cats are stealthy,” Karg says. The way they move goes back to their hunting and eluding skills. In the wild, cats were both predators and prey and developed survival skills accordingly.
Myth #2: Cats have nine lives. This, of course, is folklore, but Karg says it may have its origins in the fact that cats have very good immune systems. They may seem to spring back from injury or illness better than other animals. “That’s evolution. They were selected as a species to be resilient.”
Myth #3: Cats are aloof. Karg disagrees. “Cats have agency. They have self-esteem,” he says. “Cats are social. They want to be around people. But on their terms.”
Myth #4: Cats are finicky. Many pets, cats included, overeat. But the idea that cats are picky eaters comes from the tendency of some cats to eat small amounts of food several times a day. “A lot of cats are nibblers because they are hunters. It is consistent with how they hunt many small things,” says Karg.
Myth #5: Cats are not trainable. “They don’t do jobs” says Karg. “They are trainable, but they don’t need it. They don’t covet it like dogs. It’s in the DNA for dogs.”
So, the differences between dogs and cats go back a long way. Karg notes that when dogs were domesticated it was with the intent to use them as helpers and workers. Some were bred for hunting, others for herding and other activities that enhanced human lives. Cats, he contends, “domesticated themselves.” He explained that as agricultural societies began to store excess grain on farms, rodent infestation became a problem. Cats showed up and took care of business. They socialized with people and decided to stick around.
While they have different attributes, it’s not like you have to choose one over the other. Karg notes that many people live in multi-pet, multi-species households, with cats and dogs getting along just fine, for the most part.
Frederick Cat Vet also offers boarding services. That side of the business is aptly named, “The Cat’s Pajamas Bed and Breakfast.” Overnight guests are given spaces of their own and plenty of toys and play time. It’s a unique space on the second floor that looks more like a room full of cupboards than a kennel, with doors that open into cozy multilevel spaces. Very un-cage-like. Each boarder also has a window on the world, or more accurately on the parking lot. But it’s a window nonetheless, where cats can watch the birds and squirrels and cars.
Again, the feline-only business model works well here. Cats can get comfy in their own spaces without having to contend with other animals. If they wish to meet fellow guests, that can be arranged with connecting rooms. It’s a setup that works for both the nervous cat that wants to find a nice perch or hiding place and the more social cat about town.
Many Frederick area cat lovers have discovered the caring folks at Frederick Cat Vet. Some pet owners and patients travel from other parts of Maryland and nearby counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to see the cat specialists. If you are a dog person, the folks at Frederick Cat Vet wish you and your pooch the best. But if you are a cat person, they welcome you to check out their office and see if their approach suits you and your pet.
Pushing Karg one more time on the question of whether one companion animal is better than another, he states again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, if you spend enough time with him, watching him interact with his patients he finally caves: “Cats are not better. I just like them better.”