There’s a Holiday Dedicated to Feline Vet Care, and Here’s Why
Today is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day!
Some cat parents out there might be wondering why they need to be reminded to take their cat to the vet. Doesn’t everyone take their cat to the vet regularly? Unfortunately, the answer to this is no.
As a matter of fact, according to several veterinary publications, cats outnumber dogs as household pets, yet they receive less than half as much veterinary care as dogs. Based on my years of experience in the veterinary hospital, this is true. I rarely saw my feline patients as often as I did my canine patients (with a few exceptions of course). But why is this the case?
Health Pets with Dr. Karen Becker offers a few reasons:
1. Many people think that cats are self-sufficient because they can hunt and clean themselves. For many cats this is true, but it doesn’t mean that they are self-sufficient at caring for their health.
2. Cats have a remarkable ability to remain stoic. While this is without a doubt an endearing trait, the ability to mask illness leads many people to believe that cats simply don’t need regular health care and checkups. However, I would argue that this is an additional reason to provide cats with proper health care and annual exams! If they are hiding something, it would be great to know as soon as possible so that you can treat conditions before they become too advanced.
3. Travel difficultly. Anyone who has tried to travel with a cat knows that it’s difficult to get a cat into a carrier in the first place, and then it might be a whole other battle getting them to be calm in an exam room. I get it, but I am going to provide you with some tips for dealing with this difficulty below.
I am going to add one more to Dr. Becker’s list:
4. Feral colonies. Feral colonies of cats reemphasize a lot of the above assumptions. Because the cats can care for each other and remain self-sufficient, many people believe that they don’t need people to interfere in their lives. However, I have personally cared for cats that became ill after living in feral colonies. It’s important to remember that while cats can survive as a feral colony, it doesn’t mean that they are wild. We have encroached upon many animal habitats, and as long as we want to integrate an animal in our lives, I believe that we owe it to them to provide basic health care.
As a result of the above assumptions, it’s important to have a day to educate pet parents about the importance of taking your cat to the vet!
According to Dr. Becker, the CATalyst Council, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and the American Animal Hospital Association have developed the Feline Life Stages Guidelines to help pet parents understand the different stages of a cat’s life and how that changes their health care needs. As opposed to categorizing a cat’s healthcare stage as; kitten, cat or senior, the new guidelines actually break down the life stages of a cat into six categories; kitten, junior, prime, mature, senior, and geriatric.
I think these new guidelines are imperative to improving feline health care and pet parent education because a cat’s lifespan is so variable and there are so many health care considerations at each stage. And I also firmly believe that healthcare should be customized and everything is worth discussing with your veterinarian.
So how often should you take your cat to the vet?
At the very least, your cat should be visiting the vet for their annual exam. An annual exam allows your veterinarian to assess your cat’s medical history, physical condition, weight, and dental health. I cannot stress enough the importance of annual exams. I have seen tumors discovered early, skin cancers removed before they could spread, and a myriad of other diagnoses that saved pet parents time, money, and stress trying to figure out what was wrong with their pet a few weeks or months later.
As your cat ages, they should visit the vet every six months to ensure that their health remains top notch and that any changes in your cat’s behavior or health condition can be addressed right away.
Okay, so now that you know why there is a holiday to remind people to bring their cats to the vet, and you are fully convinced that you will never miss and annual exam with your cat, let’s talk about tips for getting your cat to the vet.
1. Make the carrier a constant staple in your home at least one week before your veterinary visit. Positive carrier association is always the first piece of advice that I give to cat parents. Cats don’t usually like changes in their environment, and chances are, they aren't going to like their carrier. Therefore, it is important that you give your cat time to acclimate to their carrier before trying to get them to go in it. If your cat is adjusting well throughout the week, try to feed them in the carrier (high-reward treats or really yummy food should help) leading up to the visit to form a positive association. Lastly, make sure that they have some of their familiar items in their carrier. For example, do they have an extra bed or toy? These things can really help cats adjust to their carrier.
2. If necessary, avoid the dogs. Some cats like dogs, some cats don’t. If your cat doesn’t like dogs, it is best to keep them out of the waiting room before their visit as that might only increase anxiety and stress. You can always book and early morning/late afternoon appointment to avoid the midday rush and craziness that many veterinary hospitals experience. These appointment times will also give you an opportunity to go straight into the exam room and let your cat relax before the doctor comes into the room.
3. Ask your vet about using synthetic feline pheromone products in the car. There are a few feline pheromone products on the market that might help your cat adjust to the car ride by providing them with a calm environment. For some of my former patients, this was the best product! However, for other feline patients, it was relatively ineffective. Call your veterinarian before the exam to see if they have any recommendations.
Now we want to hear from you! What tips or tricks do you use to get your cat to the vet? Do you feel that your cat’s health has been improved by annual exams?
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