At last count, the number of cats owned as pets outnumbers dogs by 8 million. Many people consider their cats as family members, yet cats receive less veterinary care than dogs. One study shows that dog owners took their pet to the vet twice as often as cat owners. Thirty-eight percent of surveyed cat owners said just the thought of taking their cat to the vet made them anxious. So the question veterinarians are asking is why cats are brought to the vet less frequently than dogs. Of course there are some obvious answers; certainly, a big issue is getting your cat into a carrier and the trip to the vet clinic. People are always amazed at how willing a cat will get into a carrier at the vet clinic when they spent hours and possibly donated some of their blood convincing their cat to get into the carrier at home. The secret is, they DON’T want to be here and are more than happy to leave. Many cat owners have experienced being “serenaded” by their cat while driving, which can be stressful for both the cat and the operator of the vehicle. So the veterinary community’s challenge is to teach cat owners the importance of wellness care in cats, give them tools to make transporting their cat easier and make visits to the vet as low stress as possible.
Cats are very self-sufficient; this has led to cat owners’ misconception that cats do not need wellness care. It can also be difficult to see signs of illness in a cat; they do a good job at hiding symptoms. However, when we catch the disease early, we have a much better chance of improving the cat’s length and quality of life. This is especially true with thyroid and kidney disease, both very common in cats as they mature. Wellness exams are recommended at least every year, and for cats, as they get older, twice a year. When you think of every year of a cat’s life being equal to four to six years of our life, it would be like us going to the doctor every 3-4 years. Wellness exams can help the veterinarian find early signs of disease and help make changes to positively affect your cat’s life. There is a common misconception that annual exams are just for vaccinations. Wellness exams are much more involved, including full physical exam, dental care, and weight management discussions and parasite control, dietary and vaccine recommendations all appropriate for the age and lifestyle of each cat. There no longer is a “one size fits all” recommendation for cats; each one is unique in its health and wellness needs.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners has developed a program to help make veterinary practices more feline friendly. This includes guidelines for veterinary practices to follow to decrease stress on cats in the clinical setting, and educational material for cat owners to make travel to the vet and the vet visit itself less stressful. I especially like the video the produced that is available on you tube, “Cats and Carriers: Friends not foes.” Training your cat to like its carrier before a vet visit can do so much to make the experience better for everyone.
At Wilderness Animal Hospital a goal for this year is to become more feline friendly. We’ll be learning how to make our practice more cat-friendly; improving the waiting room and exam room so cats feel more comfortable and training the staff to be aware of and respond to our cat patients’ needs. Watch for changes when you come to visit, we want to visit stress-free for you and your cat as possible.
Remember, Easter will soon be here, and Easter Lilies are starting to be available in stores. If you do have cats, remember flowers in the Lily family are VERY toxic to cats, so if you have cats in your home, you might want to avoid buying a Lily to decorate your home.
And of course, we still love dogs at WAH. Watch out for the Easter chocolate and sugary snacks. Dogs love to get into the Easter basket and that one minute of bliss can lead to some serious problems. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas for articles. [email protected] or our facebook page.