Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cats Need to Visit their Veterinarian

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Photo Courtesy of Lisette Brodey

It hurts my heart to think that cat owners don't realize that their cat needs to see a veterinarian exactly as much as a dog does. I can't imagine why they don't think of it but so few cats have ever seen a veterinarian, have an annual check-up, vaccinations, etc. that it's startling.

There are some interesting facts that lead me to this conclusion and I'm happy to share them with you.
In the United States there are 86 million owned cats and 78 million owned dogs yet nearly twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian. Think about that for a minute. What's wrong with this picture?

41% of cats only go to the veterinarian for vaccinations and 39% of cat owners say that they would only take their cat to the veterinarian if it was sick. 83% of cats are taken to the veterinarian within the first year that they're owned but over half of them do not return. That's a sad fact. 
Photo Courtesy of Claire Clayton

Why? 60% of cat owners say their cat hates to go to the veterinarian, 39% only take the cat to the veterinarian if the cat is sick and 38% report that the thought of taking their cat to the veterinarian stresses them out.

This really is an issue that's easily resolved but it seems that few people have sought help, or even information that could help them. Yet a full 56% of owners say they would bring their cat to the veterinarian more often if they knew it could prevent problems.

Wellness started in human medicine and then moved to veterinary medicine. Preventive care is as important for our pets as it is for us. That yearly visit to the veterinarian can help prevent disease, or catch it early before it becomes advanced and more difficult to treat.  Your veterinarian can also teach you to brush your cat's teeth. Healthy teeth and gums are as important for our pets as they are for us. All sorts of germs can leech down from dirty teeth and cause a wide range of health problems.

My cat, Aimee, is now 16 years old. When she was about 12  I took her for her first Senior Wellness Exam. It included a full range of blood work and tests to see what her baseline is so that her veterinarian can tell if something is changing and catch it early. Senior cats should visit their veterinarian twice a year.  Putting off veterinary visits is a case of pennywise and pound foolish. If kitty really gets sick it will cost you more in the end to try to fix the problem, and it will be harder on both you and your kitty.

Photo Courtesy of Shara Rendell Smock

Cats are experts at hiding illness and Feline Practitioners are experts in feline health.  Please don't wait until kitty is really ill.

The sad thing is that only 18% of cat owners report that they have received instruction teaching them how to transport their cat. Transporting a cat isn't all that difficult. Cats are extremely intelligent and they only need to learn that their carrier is a wonderful place to be.  Bring the carrier out, leave it open and put a soft towel, or pad or snuggly blanket in there. You might want to add a toy. Let kitty get used to going in an out. There is a product called Feliway that will help calm the cat.  You may have heard of it as a plug-in room spray, or as a spray can but it also comes in the form of wipes. You can wipe the inside of the carrier, especially before the trip to the veterinarian, to help calm kitty.

Photo Courtesy of Frank Incremona
When you arrive at the veterinary hospital, hopefully there will be a separate waiting room for cats but whether there is or not, keep kitty's carrier on a chair next to you so it's elevated. Cats like higher places. Turn the carrier toward you so she's not making eye contact with other cats or curious dogs. You may opt to put a towel on top of the carrier and drop it down over the door for privacy which can make kitty feel more secure.

My veterinarian sees all manner of pets in her practice but she's also a Feline Practitioner. The American Association of Feline Practitioners is an organization of veterinarians who are dedicated to cats and their health. Their website has a special section for pets owners with  downloadable brochures to help you and your kitty as well as a listing of members so you can locate a Feline Practitioner near you. You can find them at:

If push comes to shove and you really can't take your cat out to the veterinarian, seek out a mobile veterinarian who will come to your home. There really is no excuse for not having your kitty seen annually by a veterinarian, twice a year for senior cats. 
Photo Courtesy of Anthony James

Here are some helpful links:

Getting your cat to the veterinarian:

Signs and Symptoms of illness:

Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian Brochure

More educational brochures are available on the website. Spend some time looking around.  It's a great resource for cat owners, whether new or experienced.


American Association of Feline Practitioners:

Ownership Statistics in the U.S.:

Statistics Simplified:

Petxpert Podcast with Dr, .Jane Brunt of The Catalyst Council:


Gordon Brice said...

Great blog as always, Darlene. Pet welfare is as important as our own......moreso probably, as they are unable to tell us when they are ill and what the symptoms are. They rely on us to keep check on how they are doing, hence the importance of regular visits to the vet......often an unwelcome trip, but an essential one.
Thank you for some wonderful advice, which I hope everyone will take notice of and, if possible, share far and wide.
I love the beautiful photos by the way.

Vallie Szymanski said...

Darlene, Cats DO need to visit their veterinarian for all of the reasons you discussed in your blog. And they are MASTERS at concealing any painful health issues. Case in point, I took our 2 cats Ronnie and Whitney3 to see our veterinarian, Dr. Kurt Klepitsch, for their annual exam. After Kurt's typical, thorough examination, we discovered that Ronnie had a tooth that was "re-absorbing", I had never encountered that with any of my cats before. Just imagine how an absessed tooth affects humans, same concept, OUCH!! Ronnie is going in for his surgery this coming Friday, fingers crossed it will be an easy extraction. Thank YOU for this important reminder, I will now share your blog on my facebook page.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much, Gordon. You are so right, they can't tell us when they're ill and what their symptoms are. I'm so glad you liked the pictures. Each one is a beloved companion.
I, too, hope everyone shares it far and wide. It's important information but won't do any good if no one reads it.

Darlene said...

Thank you for commenting, Vallie. They really are masters at concealing pain and illness of any sort.
Thank you for sharing with us the story of Ronnie's reabsorbing tooth! Poor thing.
Thank you, too, for sharing this on your FB page.

Vallie Szymanski said...

You'll be happy to know that Ronnie is doing just fine, it was an easy extraction and I learned quite a bit about that specific condition. Dr. K is the best and his team took exceptionally good care of the our little guy. Of course his brother Whitney3 is still hissing from the "vet clinic odors" on his coat. But they are working it out today. Now to keep Ronnie from eating dry food for 2 weeks...sure, easy task! Thanks again for posting this very important blog.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much for the update, Vallie! I'm so glad Ronnie is doing so well. I'm also happy to hear that you have an exceptionally good veterinarian. You might put a little dab of vanilla extract on each cat's butt. They will smell pretty much the same to each other. Nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. It does no good for me to put good information out there if no one reads it. I hope people will share it.

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