The sterile white ward is oddly similar to that of any other first-rate private clinic.
The smell of strong disinfectant lingers in the air and the area is spotlessly clean. Its occupants however are rather different. A stolid tomcat surveys the wall opposite, looking intensely bored. Two mewling kittens stick their heads between the bars of their cages and bat playfully at the air.
“They are wild and very nervous when they come in.” says Dr. Afzal Mohamed, chief veterinarian and founder of Doctor Cat — a one-of-its-kind feline speciality clinic. A smile lights up his face as one kitten proceeds to nuzzle his hand and lick his fingers. “But, just look at them now,” he says.
Started in August this year, the clinic promises to address the needs of cats by providing a variety of services including consultations, surgeries, emergency care and in-patient amenities. “Cats are not small dogs and cannot be treated as such. They tend to get nervous very easily and do much better in a dog-free environment,” says Dr. Afzal.
Devika Khazvini, founder of the Cattitude trust, a city-based NGO that deals with the welfare of cats agrees. “Cats are deeply sensitive creatures who have a tendency to retreat into themselves when they are upset. Having too many dogs around is very distressing for them and a terrified cat is much harder to treat.”
“Every case is a challenge.” admits Dr. Afzal. “In case of any operation, I insist on the animal being brought down the previous day so that a complete physical is performed. Cats are more prone to post-anaesthetic complications and we need to be very sure before performing a surgery.”
The clinic has already proved a blessing for Schnitzel — who was one of its initial patients.
“My friend Susan’s cat Schnitzel was very lethargic, could not pass urine and refused to eat,” says Kamakshi Raghavan. “The vet she initially went to said it was a simple case of indigestion and prescribed an over-the-counter remedy. “
Fortunately, Kamakshi advised Susan to contact Dr. Afzal who realised that the cat was suffering from a blocked urethra, which leads to acute renal failure and death. Although it was touch-and-go for a bit, the cat pulled through.
“I’ve been in and out of many clinics but this place was special because Dr. Afzal puts his whole heart into this — he really feels for the animals” says Susan.
For Dr. Afzal, it is simply about the animal. “There is this misconception that cats are cold and dispassionate. That is rubbish — they are as affectionate as dogs — they just express themselves differently. I think it is high time cats too, get their due,” he says.