Even though cats are the most popular pet in America -- in 2011, more than 86 million cats were owned as pets compared to 78 million dogs – cats do not receive the same level of veterinary care as dogs do.*
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) shares the following statistics:
- Almost twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian.
- Of the cats that do visit the veterinarian, they average 26% fewer visits than dogs.
- 41% of cat owners visit the veterinarian only for vaccinations.
- 39% of cat owners say they would only take their cat to the veterinarian if the cat was sick.
- 60% of cat owners report that their cat hates going to the veterinarian.
- 38% of cat owners report that they get stressed just thinking about bringing their cat to the vet.
These numbers are alarming, because they support the misconception that cats don’t need the same level of care as dogs. In fact, quite the opposite may be true. Cats are masters at hiding illness, and by the time they show symptoms, a disease may already be in the advanced stages, making treatment more difficult, and more costly.
“A Stitch in Time” Could Save “Nine Lives!”
Kidney disease is a prime example: by the time your cat shows symptoms, the disease may already be in the advanced stages. If kidney disease is detected at an early stage through routine bloodwork, treatment may only require minor changes to your cat’s lifestyle, rather than costly medications or even hospitalization.
The AAFP recommends annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics, and cats with known medical conditions.
What About Cats Who Hate the Vet?
One barrier to regular vet visits for cat guardians is the fact that so many cats get so stressed when they have to go to the vet’s. One option may be to have the vet come to you. Alternately, going to a veterinary clinic where the doctors and staff understand cats can go a long way towards making the experience less stressful.
If you’re worried about your feline’s reaction, if at all possible, look for a feline-only practice. You will find more and more of these practices in large, metropolitan areas, and even in some smaller, rural areas. Feline-only practices can provide a less stressful environment (no barking dogs!), and a staff who will be able to handle even the most fractious felines. If an all-feline practice is not an option where you live, look for a cat-friendly practice.
What Does a Cat-Friendly Practice Entail?
You’ll start seeing more of these cat-friendly practices since the AAFP rolled out its cat-friendly practice initiative earlier this year. The goals of the initiative are to:
- Lay the groundwork for the delivery of care to the underserved feline population.
- Identify trends and baseline species information essential for understanding cats.
- Acknowledge the essential role of the cat owner in the veterinary visit.
- Provide support to veterinarians and their teams to create a cat friendly practice environment.
- Outline strategies for introducing changes in the delivery of care that incorporate a better understanding of the cat’s distinct needs and behaviors.
Certification requires a practice to have at least one staff member who belongs to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, though a practice does not need to specialize specifically in cats. Practices must comply with a 10-item checklist and send it to the AAFP for review.
If your cats haven’t seen a veterinarian in more than a year, pick up the phone and make an appointment now and ensure that they receive the care they need!
*According to the AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines
Ingrid King is the award-winning author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and Purrs of Wisdom: Conscious Living, Feline Style. She is a former veterinary hospital manager turned writer. Her popular blog, The Conscious Cat, is a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health, and happiness for cats and their humans. The Conscious Cat has won multiple awards, including DogTime Media’s 2012 Pettie for Best Cat Blog, 2011 Pettie for Best Overall Pet Blog and About.com’s 2012 Readers Choice Award for Best Website About Cats. Ingrid is the publisher of the online magazine News for You and Your Pet, which goes out to subscribers around the world. For more information about Ingrid, please visit www.ConsciousCat.com.
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