Saying goodbye to the Cat Doctor: Local veterinarian dies after battle with cancer; SCV community pays tribute

Pet owners sign a banner to leave words of love and gratitude for Dr. Tracy McFarland. Michele Lutes/The Signal
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Dr. Tracy McFarland, 60, a longtime and well-liked local veterinarian, died early Monday surrounded by her family after a short battle with cancer.

“I’m gonna miss her,” said associate veterinarian Melissa Waller. “She would listen to everybody, and even offer advice. She would be their friend versus just being their doctor.”

Pet owners gathered in the Cat Doctor and Friends conference room on Bouquet Canyon on Friday and Saturday to leave cards, flowers and messages of love for McFarland, who was known as more than just a veterinarian.

Cinema Veterinary Centre’s Dr. Jaimie Ronchetto and Copper Hill Animal Clinic Dr. Vanessa Vandersande lit candles in memory of McFarland at their practices Monday.

“Today, we burn a candle in memoriam,” read a sign displayed at Copper Hill Animal Clinic on Monday. “She was a pillar of Santa Clarita’s veterinary community, a champion of cats.”

Dr. Tracy McFarland opened The Cat Doctor Inc. in 1994. She is known by pet owners to be more than a veterinarian. Courtesy photo.

Many pet owners and community members have asked how they can help, said practice manager Jennifer Ries. “In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider our in-house ‘Slick Fund.’ The Slick Fund is a fund that helps hundreds of people and cats in the Santa Clarita community.”

McFarland started the “Slick Fund” 12 years ago to help cats in need.

It helps low-income owners pay for their vet care and helps cats that someone might have found injured, Ries said.

Donations can also be made to the ZachAlexa Memorial Fund, specifically for senior cats, and the Heifer International Fund, a fund that McFarland held near and dear to her heart, Ries said.

“There are not enough words or meows to describe this special person and her amazing, positive effect on all of our lives,” said Gail Atkin, client of the Cat Doctor and Friends and creator of the GoFundMe fundraiser created in tribute to McFarland.
The GoFundMe was created by a client as a convenient way to donate, Ries said.

“I thought that if we could contribute to her ‘Slick’ fund or to anything the staff needs,” Atkin wrote on the GoFundMe page.

McFarland was a wife, mother, friend, doctor and mentor.

“Dr. Tracy and her son Joey started writing a book many months ago,” Ries said.

The book was about her experiences as a cat doctor and her recommendations for cat owners, she said.

Her son is asking community members and clients for their memories, stories or photos of McFarland to include in this book, Ries said.

To share your stories and photos, send them directly to [email protected].

“When I was talking to her and thanking her, she said, ‘Make sure you pass on your knowledge to somebody else,’” said Ries. “That’s kinda how she’s always lived her life.”
The Cat Doctor and Friends will remain open, Ries said.

“We collectively want to make sure her dream of offering compassionate veterinary care with integrity and honesty continues,” Ries said. “That’s what we will continue to strive towards in her memory.”

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