Tomorrow, August 22, is “National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day”. It’s certainly a day that cats aren’t thrilled with, but nonetheless one that we humans should note and act upon.
More cats than dogs are owned as pets, yet cats receive “significantly less veterinary care” than their canine counterparts according to a report from the Association of Feline practitioners and the AVMA. In a survey conducted by Feline Pine, the company that founded “Take Your Cat to the Vet Day”, researchers found that “over one-third of owners only took their cat to the vet when it was notably ill and only 17% of home cats are properly vaccinated”. It’s proven in statistics and surveys that, although more cats than dogs are kept as household pets, not only do cats overall get fewer visits to the veterinarian and fewer studies are done on behalf of their physical and emotional health and welfare. This overall lack of treatment also bears out in lower spay/neuter and adoption rates and, unfortunately, somewhat higher euthanasia rates.
If your cats are spayed or neutered, rabies vaccinated according to your state’s laws and their immunity to common illnesses is up to date via vaccine or titer, con-cat-ulations! You are in the minority of cat owners, but helping to keep the cat population from increasing and also helping to keep the cat population generally healthy even if your cat does not go outdoors or encounter other cats.
But if your cat has convinced you that she hates to go to the vet, and you’ve given in to her histrionics, you need to remember that you are the human here, and in this one area, at least, you make the decisions. Studies also show that decision has just as much to do with you as the responsible party as it does with how your cat freaks out at the sight of the carrier or how she lacerated your vet’s hand the last time she was examined.
Another study by Bayer HealthCare and the American Association of Feline Practitioners shows that “more than half of U.S. cats have not seen a veterinarian within the past year for needed checkups,” and that “reasons for the lack of feline veterinary care range from how cats are acquired to people’s perceptions of the health care they need.”
So the decision to take your cat to your vet is really your responsibility, and it’s not only important to be certain all vaccinations are up to date but also to have that annual exam when your veterinarian can get a look at your cat and see where her health stands at that point in time, advise you of anything that needs to be done such as dental care or age-related blood tests, or explain age or health related changes your vet sees in your cat. In turn, you can take the time to ask questions about things you’ve noticed with your cat and also about information you may have seen or read and whether you should make changes you’ve been considering. As the years pass, your veterinarian and you get to know your cat’s health better and better, so that when a health challenge occurs you both have the whole history at hand and can make much better decisions than if you suddenly noticed a change and were starting from scratch making decisions. This article discusses what a “well visit” for a cat should entail, and why.
The most important decision is choosing the veterinarian for your cat and you. Just as you choose a doctor you trust for your health care, you should choose a veterinarian who you trust for your cat’s health, and also one where your cat feels comfortable, a “cat friendly practice”. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) actually has guidelines and certifies veterinary practices that are cat-friendly by having feline specialists, special cat waiting and exam areas, certain hours that are cat only, or the entire practice is cat only, and more. Read about cat friendly practices, and find one near you, on the AAFP website.
Aside from your cat’s attitude, finances are always a deciding factor. Adequate health care is not inexpensive for anyone, and in many cases the same diagnostics are used for animals that are used for humans so there is no reason to think they should be less expensive, or totally unnecessary. The annual health check helps to keep overall costs down by monitoring overall health, but even just that annual visit can be expensive, especially if you have a number of cats. If you have a vet you like to work with, ask them if they accept pet health insurance. Pet health insurance today actually covers some of the annual cost of a visit as well as medical procedures and catastrophic care, just like your own insurance. If they don’t, and you’d like to try insurance, find a vet who does if the final decision for health is cost. You can also check with your local shelters and see if they have a clinic that is open to the public which is often less expensive because of the volume they see, or see if there is a low-cost clinic in your area. Always check references and even visit the practice if you can.
We are lucky to have worked with the same house-call only veterinarian for over 20 years, and if you can find a house call veterinarian in your area this may be the solution to the trauma of the carrier and car ride—for both you and your cat—and for issues such as displacement aggression, when cats act aggressively toward a cat who’s been to the vet and comes home smelling funny. But my veterinarian told me way back at the beginning that it’s always instructive for her to see the animals in their home because they are not only less stressed, but she can also see more natural behavior and alert owners to potential dangers like toxic plants.
And if you have multiple cats, as I always have, rather than keeping the annual visits on a different day for each of them, find one day a year when everyone gets their exam to make it easier to remember, plan and keep records.
Those are just a few reasons why you should, and ways to, take your cat to the vet. If appointments are necessary, get your cats’ records together and see if any appointments need to be made. Learn to give your cat a weekly or monthly nose-to-tail assessment so you know your cats’ wellness in between exams, and know if something may be wrong. And tell your cat she’ll get a special treat for going along with your plans for once.
“So we get gold medals for this stuff? What are we supposed to do with gold medals?” I don’t want to tell them they are only rabies tags.
Read about other Whole House Exams!
Read more articles about Health and Safety and Veterinary Medicine.
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