By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 26, 2015 at 5:37 AM

Welcome to OnMeowaukee Cat Week, a meowsome bunch of articles, photos, videos and an Instagram contest celebrating all aspects of Milwaukee cats. Sponsored by Bark N' Scratch Outpost, these seven days are dedicated to those creatures with nine lives who make our lives more paw-sitive.

If you’ve driven down Water Street in the Third Ward, you’re certain to have seen the building with the sign on it that says "The Cat Doctor." And you’ve probably guessed that, behind the sign, lies a veterinary practice that focuses on cats.

But, until you’ve stepped foot into the facility at 236 N. Water St., you can’t begin to imagine the feline wonderland that lies within.

It’s a cat haven – filled with cat paraphernalia, locally made cat toys, food products and even rescued cats (like this little guy) who are looking for adoptive homes.

Best of all, it’s a space dedicated to cats, so felines and their owners need not have trepidation about the potential of meeting dogs or any other animals in the waiting room.

"We really strive to make our patients as comfortable as possible," says Dr. Kathryn Christensen, who opened up the feline focused veterinary clinic in 1998 after earning her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She opened a practice focusing on cats because she says she simply had an affinity for the animals.

"I’ve always been more comfortable with cats than dogs or other animals," she says. "I can read them better, and have really developed a sort of kinship with them."

The clinic offers a comprehensive set of services including check-ups, surgical procedures, and a variety of diagnostic testing.

"The one things we don’t currently offer," says Christensen, "Is alternative medicine. In fact, if I found someone trained in that area, I’d love to have them here."

Christensen has treated hundreds of thousands of cats, including many suffering from diseases like hyper-thyroidism (a condition common in older cats) and diabetes, a condition that’s growing more common as feline obesity levels increase. And she says she’s seen numerous cases where cats haven’t gotten the specific treatment needed to adequately treat their conditions.

"It’s actually quite common for diabetic cats to be treated at clinics who start them on the wrong type of insulin," she says. "Cats can’t be treated with the same drugs as dogs, and in many cases it can be less effective. In some cases, we can make the switch to the right medication and patients will see improvement right away."

Christensen also provides breed counseling – genetic counseling for purebred cats – which allows pet owners to be proactive with their cats’ health in terms of anticipating, and often avoiding, potential health issues.

Christensen says that, in addition to check-ups and treatments for disease, the clinic also provides numerous types of training for pet owners.  

"We teach people how to do blood checks at home so that they can be proactive with their cats," she says. "And we do a lot of behavior counseling – something that not every vet offers – most relating to litter box or aggression issues. The majority can be solved, with the exception of some cases involving abuse or particular mental illness disorders."

Beyond healthcare services, The Cat Doctor also provides grooming services and "luxury" boarding services for cats of all stripes. Five colorfully painted themed rooms (including tropical, farm and French themes) offer cats plenty of room to move about and play, including cat trees on which they can leap and climb.

"This type of boarding arrangement, offering areas for cats to be cats,  has become more and more common over the years," says Christensen, "But, in 1998 when we opened, it was really unique."

When the rooms are full, the clinic also offers traditional cage-style boarding, with most cats hosted in dual-level cages, allowing the cat space to perch and move about. A playroom complete with a ladder, access to windows, and plenty of places to leap and stretch, offers more confined animals a place to feel more at home.

The Cat Doctor is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  To make an appointment, call (414) 272-2287.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.