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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Cat Care Clinic: A Holistic Approach

Dr. Susan Swanson

Dr. Susan Swanson, owner of Cat Care Clinic, in Mahtomedi, was in her senior year of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota when she was diagnosed with severe allergies to cats, dogs and horses. The news was devastating to Swanson, who had wanted to be a veterinarian since she was eight years old. “My allergic reactions were getting worse and worse,” she recalls. “But after ten years of college I was not about to change careers.” Motivated by her lifelong dream, Swanson quickly sought help from an allergist and was able complete her degree.

The medication from the allergist effectively relieved Swanson’s symptoms until her eighth year practicing veterinary medicine, when they seemed to stop working. “It reached a point where the injections were actually causing more of a reaction than the cats were,” she says. “I started an elimination diet and I discovered gluten was the problem.” Swanson promptly removed gluten from her diet and her allergies nearly disappeared.

Realizing diet was the true foundation of health, Swanson began incorporating nutrition and alternative treatments into her vet practice. She personally tested her remedies before giving them to her feline patients. “I’m a gardener, so I was studying nutrition and growing herbs for my own use. I realized I could probably use them for my animals.”

Today Swanson uses both Western and alternative medical philosophies at her clinic, focusing heavily on nutrition. “If you don’t have the right diet, it doesn’t matter what else you do,” she says. “You’re not going to get healthy.”

Since adding holistic therapies, Swanson says more patients are recovering from chronic health problems. “I’m no longer seeing the same animal for the same issue multiple times and I’m getting better responses to the treatment,” she explains. Also, because the environment is calmer, Swanson has noticed a change in her patients’ temperaments during their visits. “Cats are very intuitive,” she says. “They pick up on our emotions and stress levels. If it’s a relaxed environment then they’re going to be more relaxed. It allows me to practice better medicine because my patients aren’t totally stressed out.”

Swanson loves offering a complementary approach to medicine because both perspectives have advantages. “Alternative and Western medicine are not mutually exclusive; they work together very well,” she says. “The other day I had a cat that I sent home with antibiotics. I also sent home a natural immune booster for the primary infection, so we use the best of both worlds.” CCC also offers other Western medical practices such as surgery, dentistry and steroid treatments (when necessary).

CCC also offers home visits, as cats are notorious for hating car rides. “The worst part of the whole affair is that car ride here,” Swanson says. “I started my business 22 years ago as a mobile cat clinic out of my home doing exclusively house calls.” Swanson still averages one home visit each week.

CCC specializes in feline medicine, but Swanson offers holistic consults for other animals as long as they also have a primary physician. “I try not to do anything routine on dogs like heartworm tests,” she explains. “But once I have seen them for a holistic consult I can see them for other things as well.” Therapy options include herbology, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, craniosacral, Reiki and nutritional counseling.

She welcomes new animals because not many clinics provide her level of holistic care. She notes that there are more vets who offer chiropractic or acupuncture, but usually from a Western perspective and without the whole-body approach. Swanson believes she is tuned in to each animal when she goes over diet, current medications and medical history, and then conducts both Western and Eastern medical exams.

Swanson hopes to expand the number of different species she treats. She owns a private hobby farm where she has been relearning large-animal medicine and soon will offer holistic consultations for stock animals such as sheep, goats and alpacas.

Ultimately Swanson wants people to know there are other options available to keep pets healthy and happy. The services she provides are often less expensive than traditional ones and pets respond well to Swanson’s gentle approach. “There is a whole other world out there,” Swanson says. “My holistic journey started because of my own health issues, but it works for my patients and we get really good results.”

Cat Care Clinic is located at 1524 Mahtomedi Avenue, Mahtomedi. For more information or to make an appointment, call 651-429-4153 or visit

Michelle Hamburger is a marketing/sales representative and freelance writer for Natural Awakenings. She can be reached at [email protected]

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