Cats are more popular pets than dogs; however they visit the vet a lot less often, according to a study done last year by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Some statistics I have read estimate they see the vet half as often as dogs. Cats do, in fact, require regular veterinary visits. Our feline friends have a tendency to hide their illnesses and subtle signs that they are sick tend to go unnoticed by owners for a long time. It seems that people get cats because they are perceived to be a lower-maintenance pet than dogs. This is true and the cat’s independence is part of their charm. However, we also find ourselves paying less attention to their day to day routines such as appetite, water consumption, and litter box habits. In addition, cats are often less stoic than dogs and are certainly less apt to complain when they aren’t feeling well. They usually become more reclusive. Cats very frequently show signs of illness that are very nonspecific when compared to dogs. Cats might lose a pound of body weight and although that does not seem like a lot, the average ten pound cat that loses one pound has just lost 10% of their body weight. That does seem like a lot (it is!). Due to the fact that cats often have subtle and non-specific symptoms, veterinarians often need to do more diagnostics such as lab work and X-rays. Dogs, in comparison, will often give the vet more clues as to what is wrong and what to look for. It’s frustrating, but true.
Perhaps the tendency to take the cat to the vet less often has stemmed from the fact that our focus in veterinary medicine has gotten away from the importance of annual vaccinations. In fact, many cats do not require annual vaccinations and we are tailoring vaccine recommendations now based on the cat’s lifestyle. However, just because they may not need a vaccine is not a reason to leave them home from their annual or bi-annual examination. Regularly scheduled veterinary visits offer your veterinarian the chance to proactively treat your pet and also keep tabs on their weight, nutritional condition, and overall health. Early detection of disease allows veterinarians to fight, control, and treat many diseases such as diabetes, which are treatable when caught early.
How does one actually get the cat to vet when they really don’t appreciate traveling at all? Well, there are some good things to do in planning ahead. One big one is to get the carrier out a day or two ahead of time if you can. Put the carrier in the area where the cat spends most of his/her time so that he/she can become accustomed to it. Put treats in the carrier every now and then which they will find when they explore the carrier. You can even put the food in the carrier with the door left open. This will help get the cat accustomed to walking into the carrier willingly and make it a less scary place when the door is closed. You can also practice putting the cat into the carrier. There are several methods. They include 1. Free will walking in – the cat is trained to willingly walk into the carrier for a treat, 2. Scooping them in – the cat allows us to hold them by the chest and rear legs and feed them into the carrier face first, 3. Backing them in – the cat allows us to put them in the carrier rear end first (it helps to hold both rear legs in your palm and press them to the cat’s abdomen), 4. Removing the top and setting them in – the cat can be placed in the carrier with the top removed, then replace the top and door once they are in, and 5. Standing the carrier up – the cat is held by the shoulders and allowed to extend their back – the rear legs are placed in first and the cat is lowered into the carrier while it is sitting upright. Once the cat is in the box, the next step is habituation to the car – short trips are best. Take the cat around the block, and then back home for a snack or dinner. Eventually, if you practice this on a regular basis – the frequency depends on how upset your kitty is, they will habituate to the car and the trip to the vet won’t be as strenuous. Finally at the vet, hopefully it can be arranged that there will be minimal fear-factor. An extended appointment in which the examination is not rushed if it doesn’t have to be, willingness of the vet to sedate your pet if anxiety is a big issue, and hopefully minimal to no dog interactions during the visit will ensure the experience is as good as possible for your cat.
If your cat has not seen a vet in the past year, please call to schedule his or her appointment today. A wellness exam will help provide peace of mind for you that your beloved friend is feeling as well as you suppose he/she is.