By Jennifer Hafer | Photography by Samantha Shal
You would think cat veterinarian Dr. Sherry Weaver would have a house full of felines, but she doesn’t have a single cat at home.
“I love them, but I have a husband who has horrible asthma, so I have to live vicariously through all my owners,” said the proprietor of the Cat Clinic of Woodstock. “I love their independence. They do what they want to do and they don’t need your approval.”
But cats’ blasé attitude can sometimes mask a serious ailment.
“Dogs pretty much co-evolved with us,” Weaver said. “They express things very similarly, but cats are so completely different. It’s like learning another language to interact with someone we love.”
Cats have a very unique place in the ecosystem as both predator and prey, she explained, and if a prey animal shows weakness, well…everyone knows what happens to the sick buffalo at the watering hole.
“That’s why cats hide disease, they can’t show weakness,” Weaver said. “They are very much closer to their ancient ancestors than dogs.”
Helping educate her clients to notice subtle differences in their cat’s behavior is a large part of what Weaver and her team of feline-focused veterinarians do. Cat owners often do not realize when something is wrong with their pet because they don’t know what signs to look for. Common knowledge and information on cat behavior and health isn’t as widespread as it is for other domesticated animals.
“[In veterinarian school] I learned more about horses than cats, but the reason they didn’t teach me much was because they didn’t know much,” said Weaver. “Cats were very much second class citizens at the time.”
Fast forward 20 years, and there has been a paradigm shift in caring for cats, including the creation of cats-only clinics like Weaver’s, which is the only one of its kind in Cherokee County.
“A cat that needs fluids and hospitalization, the stress of recovery next to a barking dog will decrease survivability and it slows healing,” Weaver said. “A cat walks in my door and there are no barking dogs, and the front lobby is basically your living room with a couch, a couple of chairs and a fish tank.”
Weaver does have a traditional practice attached to the Cat Clinic, which sees all types of animals.
Even though she has no cats at home, Weaver does have 20 cats she cares for as part of her in-house rescue organization, Don’s Orphans, named for her father.
“From a medicine standpoint, and that’s what drives me, cats fascinate me because they’re constantly a mystery,” she said. “Cats are never easy; no one size fits all. They’re each their own individual and you have to figure out what motivates them.”