Pet Cats Receive Less Veterinary Care Than DogsPublished March 21, 2013
In a study recently released by Bayer Animal Health , there are 741.1 million pet cats and 70 million pet dogs in the United States. And in a recent report released by The American Association of Feline Practitioners, (AAFA), the number of pet cats that never receive any veterinary care, is almost double that of the number of pet dogs. Additionally, cats that do receive veterinary care average 26 percent fewer visits than dogs. More than 40 percent of feline veterinary visits are only for vaccinations, with nearly 40 percent of kitty guardians brining their cat to the vet only if they are sick.
Since 60 percent of kitty guardians report that their cat hates going to the vet, it's no wonder that nearly 40 percent of their owners say that just the thought of bringing their cat to the vet stresses them out.
Unfortunately, even though there is a growing awareness of the reasons cat guardians are not bringing their pets to the vet for regular checkups, Bayer reports that one-third of veterinary practices have not taken the steps they have recommended to help facilitate visits to the vet less stressful for both the guardians and their cats.
These steps include training staff on how to reduce feline stress, which can be accomplished by providing cat-only waiting areas that are far removed from dog areas, cat-only examining rooms and offering cat appointment hours and cat-only days.
According to the past president of the AAFP and the owner of Chico Hospital for Cats in California, Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, part of the problem might be that not all veterinarians are "cat people." Dr. Colleran suggests that it's possible that some of the veterinarians’ own biases may contribute to their interest or lack thereof, in making their practices more feline-friendly and more appealing to both cats and their guardians.
For veterinary practitioners looking for ways to establish a more feline -attractive environment a set of Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines were created by the AAFP and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM). These include: Placing synthetic feline pheromone diffusers, (such as Feliway ) throughout the hospital and providing a separate kitty-only waiting area, and if at all possible, a separate entrance to that area.
However, there are several things that AAFP suggests to make veterinary visits far less stressful for both kitty and their guardian.
To help prevent your cat from being carrier-phobic, leave it out in an easily accessible area with the door open. Put some of your cat's favorite treats and toys in the carrier to entice him to get in. Spray the carrier with Feliway. Take your kitty in his carrier for short rides in the car (going nowhere in particular) so your cat doesn't associate the carrier just with a visit to the vet. Prior to the vet visit, if your kitty seems anxious, consider using a homeopathic remedy to help allay his fear. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy and Jackson Galaxy’s Easy Traveler are two excellent products.
If you feel the waiting room is too noisy, ask the receptionist if you can wait in the car with your cat.
Since cats can easily sense our emotions, by keeping calm and gently reassuring your cat it can work wonders to reduce stress.
Some kitty guardians prefer cat-only practices, since they are species specific. To learn more about it and to find a cat-friendly practice in your area, check out AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice Program site .
What other suggestions can you offer to help facilitate an easier and less stressful feline vet visit? Share them in a comment.