Purrrrrrfect hospital for cats opens in Lenox

Courtney King a vet technician assistant, cares for one of her patients on Thursday afternoon at the Lenox Feline Hospital.

LENOX -- It's a feline fancier's dream -- a veterinary hospital with a welcome mat out only for cats, who are notoriously resistant to visiting a doctor but can be soothed by the absence of noisy canine distractions.

The Lenox Cat Hospital, recently opened by Dr. Sally Umlauf, 37, of Pittsfield, hosted a four-hour welcoming event for the public this week with refreshments for two-legged visitors as well as take-home catnip-laced toys.

Umlauf, a graduate of Williams College and Tufts University (with a master's in public health in addition to her DVM degree) with additional clinic training, offers a wide range of services, including routine exams starting at $64. Testing, emergency care, vaccines, medication, basic dental and other forms of surgery, including spaying and neutering, are available.

Her full-service clinic, formerly the site of Lenox Internal Medicine, is filled with the latest high-tech diagnostic equipment, including a blood analyzer, digital X-ray, imaging, oxygen, anesthesia, blood pressure, monitoring and ultrasound machines as well as two intensive-care units.

Nearly $150,000 was invested in equipment and limited interior alterations, Umlauf said, with financing from Adams Community Bank. The facility at 450 Pittsfield Road near the Holmes Road intersection, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. It's staffed by three full-time and several part-time employees.

It's the only feline-exclusive veterinary practice in Berkshire County, according to Umlauf. Several others are in Northampton, Albany, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn.

"Cats can be very stoic when it comes to illness," said Umlauf, formerly with South Street Veterinary Services in Pittsfield. "Sometimes people will notice something and it's not clear that it's a problem unless you take a thorough history." Changes in behavior, eating and drinking patterns are tip-offs to potential illness.

Umlauf's goal is to provide "compassionate care" in a quiet low-stress, canine-free environment since cats may find visits to the vet traumatic.

"We want to try to make it feel homey, considering how freaked out they are, " she said. "Think about it, it must be like an alien abduction. They're picked up and taken in a vehicle, they don't know how it moves, to a place they don't know, with all these people poking at them."

Umlauf has two adopted resident cats at the clinic, Maxwell, whom she described as one of the Berkshire Humane Society's "least adoptable cat" because of his age -- estimated at 17 -- and Malcolm.

Sprawled in their "cat condos" on Thursday were Russell, "our client relations specialist," said Umlauf as he happily licked baby food from her fingers, and Olivia, among several cats enjoying attention and awaiting adoption.

The 1,600-square foot clinic won swift approval from the town's Zoning Board of Appeals last May 1. A special permit was granted since zoning bylaws omit any mention of veterinary services, meaning they are not allowed without ZBA approval.

The zoning board approval came swiftly, only two weeks after Umlauf applied for the permit, partly because a cats-only clinic operated nearby on the Pittsfield Road between 1997 and 2001 under a variance granted by the ZBA.

Umlauf's permit allows for the overnight hospitalization of no more than six cats, and only when medically required.

To contact Clarence Fanto:

cfanto@yahoo.com

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

At a glance ...

n What: Lenox Cat Hospital, full-service veterinary facility offering well-patient, surgical and emergency care by Dr. Sally Umlauf.

n Where: 450 Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 and 20), Lenox, adjacent to Subway and Berkshire Lighting.

n When: Open weekdays 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

n Appointments or emergencies: (413) 551-7251

(monitored 24 hours daily).

n Information:

www.lenoxcathospital.co