Cats are the most popular pet in America, yet they visit the veterinarian less often than their canine counterparts. Here’s a look at why cats need regular veterinary care, and how you can make trips to the veterinarian happier for your cat and you.
The importance of feline wellness exams
Cats need regular veterinary care, too! The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association recommend a minimum of one wellness exam each year for cats, and one wellness exam every six months for senior cats—8 years and older—or those with medical or behavioral conditions. But, many cats do not receive the veterinary care they need. Why? There are several myths that keep some cat owners from taking their cats to the veterinarian.
Myth: My cat is healthy. If she gets sick, I’ll know it and will take her to the veterinarian.
Fact: Cats instinctively hide illness and are adept at hiding the symptoms of poor health. Once they begin to show signs of illness, they are usually quite sick. Annual exams promote prevention and early intervention, which can help cats live longer and healthier lives.
Myth: My cat doesn’t go outside, so she doesn’t get sick or need vaccines.
Fact: Indoor cats are still at risk for a wide variety of diseases. You can never be 100% certain your indoor kitty won’t ever get outside or that the new cat you adopted isn’t harboring disease that can be transmitted to other cats. And, while indoor cats may be exposed to fewer diseases than outdoor cats, there are still many disease pathogens that they can be exposed to.
It’s also important to note that, nationally, twice as many cats as dogs are reported to have rabies each year. Cats are natural predators and may be attracted to bats, which could be rabid. Cats come into contact with bats far more often than other pets and, if not vaccinated, may have to be euthanized after such contact.
We recommend vaccinations and parasite control measures for cats regardless of where they spend their time. Prevention is always better and less expensive than treatment.
How to create a happier veterinary visit for your cat
Our veterinary team understands how stressful travel can be for you and your pet, and we are working hard to reduce fear and anxiety in all our patients, but especially feline homebodies. The following helpful tips from cat-friendly sources, plus a few of our own tricks, can help to reduce your cat’s stress.
- Choose an appropriate cat carrier — The right carrier can make a huge difference to your cat’s comfort. Choose one that’s big enough for her to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Ideally, the carrier should have easy access, such as a door on the top, or be easily taken apart so you don’t need to grab your cat from the back of the carrier, or have to tip it upside down to get her out. If your cat is really unhappy about veterinary visits, we recommend a soft-sided mesh carrier that will allow us to administer injections without removing her. Carriers safely confine cats and prevent escape, while providing a safe hiding place.
- Teach your cat about the treasures hidden in a carrier — Cats are naturally suspicious of any new objects, so leave the carrier out at all times, with the door propped open, so your pet can explore. Place a cozy bed inside, and occasionally bribe her with treats sprinkled inside. When your cat checks out the new container, she’ll sniff out the treasure trove of treats and associate the carrier with good things. She may even come to view the carrier as an excellent napping place and spend much of her resting time inside. If you only bring the carrier out to cram your cat inside for a veterinary visit, she will quickly learn that the carrier is a harbinger of doom that transports her in a loud, moving object to a strange place where she’s poked and prodded. Instead, combine high-value treats with carrier exploration and create a positive association.
- Practice short road trips with your cat — Many cats do not like traveling, and the worst part of a veterinary visit is the trip, not the vaccinations and exam. Cats also are uncomfortable with anything unfamiliar and they do not like losing control of their situation, both which a carrier and travel represent. So, acclimate your cat to her carrier and a moving vehicle by taking her on short trips that end with a special treat, and create a positive association.
- We have medications that may help with anxiety — Since we are learning more about the ill-effects of fear, anxiety, and stress on your pet’s physical health, our veterinary team will do everything possible, including medical intervention, to eliminate stress. We will create a plan specifically for your cat that will help her feel more comfortable while traveling. Calming supplements, pheromone therapy, and medications can be used jointly to battle your cat’s stress.
- A hungry cat is easier to befriend — If possible, don’t feed your cat prior to a veterinary visit. This not only helps prevent vomiting and elimination, but also ensures your cat is hungry and probably interested in tasty treats. Bring your cat’s favorite snacks to distract her during her physical exam and vaccinations.
- Bring your cat’s blanket or towel — Cats become attached to familiar objects and often have a favorite blanket. Cover your cat’s carrier with her blanket or towel to block the visual stimulation of other pets, and provide a feeling of safety and the comforting smell of home. We can also use your cat’s favorite towel during her exam to help her relax.
Our team is working wholeheartedly to move the veterinary profession toward low-stress and fear-free visits to help more pets feel less anxious and stressed in these situations. Veterinary professionals want to help animals live long, healthy, and happy lives. Calm, relaxed pets receive more frequent veterinary care, which ensures disease processes are caught early and the pet’s life is prolonged. Our team can make every veterinary visit a pleasant, stress-free experience for your beloved companion.
Give us a call to discuss your cat’s veterinary needs and how we can help make veterinary visits easier.