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About Town: Turners vet has a way with cats

  • Cheryl Mathein, a doctor of veterinary medicine working at Lauralyn J. Brown Veterinary Hospital in Turners Falls, holds Vanilla, the 17-year-old office cat. Mathein considers "cranky old cats" to be her personal specialty as a veterinarian. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Cheryl Mathein, a doctor of veterinary medicine working at Lauralyn J. Brown Veterinary Hospital in Turners Falls, pets Vanilla, the 17-year-old office cat. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Cheryl Mathein checks out CJ, who has nerve damage in his front paw. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • DVM Cheryl Methein Checks a rescue bunny with vet tech Caitrin Lawlor. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • DVM Cheryl Methein. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Monday, August 22, 2016

TURNERS FALLS — For Cheryl Mathein, associate veterinarian at Lauralyn J. Brown Veterinary Hospital, there is no such thing as a normal day.

Her patients require care ranging from booster shots to surgery, and come with a range of temperaments. But, especially with her feline patients, Mathein seems to have a natural gift for putting the animals at ease.

“Cranky old cats, that’s my specialty,” Mathein, 38, of Northampton, jokes.

“She just has a way with cats, especially those who really don’t want to come see us,” Practice Manager Cheryl Cote said.

Mathein’s soft spot for cats began when she was young, having always had a minimum of three cats growing up in Canton, Conn. After deciding that veterinary medicine was the path for her during her junior year of college at the University of St. Joseph, Mathein completed an internship with a veterinary practice catering only to cats.

“I inevitably became the go-to person for cats other people didn’t want to deal with,” Mathein said. In particular, Mathein fondly remembers a 15-year-old cat named Pepper, who she was able to handle, but who would swat at other veterinary assistants.

“There’s something about cats,” Mathein said. “They pick you, you don’t pick them. You just have to know how to read them. All cats are different.”

Mathein currently has six cats of her own, but said she has had up to nine. She said that her “way with cats” is impossible to teach, but is something that is learned through years of practice.

“You do have to be a natural,” said Lauralyn Brown, owner of the practice.

Finding her passion

However, Mathein’s decision to become a vet didn’t come quite so naturally. Mathein attended the University of St. Joseph to study biology and environmental science.

“I had planned since the seventh grade to be an environmental scientist,” Mathein explained. She found, though, that she quickly became bored with the field.

Then, attending the two-week Adventures in Veterinary Medicine program at Tufts University, Mathein had a breakthrough moment. She remembers watching a vet draw blood from the tail of a snapping turtle, and realizing that veterinary medicine would combine environmental science and her drive to help animals in a field that would always present new challenges.

“There was something about that moment, it clicked,” Mathein said.

Mathein attended Louisiana State University, graduating as a doctor of veterinary medicine in 2005. She proceeded to work for 10 years at various practices in Charlotte, N.C., and began work at Brown’s practice in February.

The purrfect experience

In that time, Mathein has added to her feline expertise. She said a lot of cats simply need to be handled slowly and carefully, while taking “their way” into account.

“That’s where a lot of people lose out,” Mathein said. “You really have to be ready to change how you’re handling them so it’s a good experience.”

At Lauralyn Brown’s clinic, it also helps to have an unusual variety of treats ready.

“We want everyone to leave happy,” Mathein said. Brown and Mathein hope to change going to the vet from something animals often dread to something they can look forward to.

“I treat my patients the way I would want to be treated,” Mathein said. “The clients are an extension of our family.”

When their animals have a stress-free vet visit, Mathein said the owners take notice.

Brown and Mathein also said that, for whatever reason, people are much more inclined to bring their dogs to the vet than their cats.

“Cats are really a neglected, underserved population,” Brown said.

Mathein believes cats are better than dogs at hiding when they don’t feel well. For this reason, annual exams, especially for cats age 7 and up, are particularly important.

Because of her gift with felines, office staff often direct feline patients to Mathein. Brown, on the other hand, has a similar gift with dogs, making for a well-balanced partnership.