Why is #TakeYourCatToTheVetDay so important? Did you know that even with the popularity of cats as pets, since 2010 vets are seeing a significant decrease in vet visits?
The decline in visits to see the vet are cause for concern. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), among dog owners, 18.7% did not take their dog to a veterinarian during 2011, up from 17.3 percent in 2006. For cat owners though, 44.9% did not take their cat to a veterinarian during 2011, up from 36.3% in 2006.
A 2013 study conducted by Bayer HealthCare, in collaboration with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), focused on improving feline healthcare and strengthening veterinary practices, revealed some startling statistics:
- Less than 48% of cats receive regular veterinary care
- 83% of cats go to the vet the first year but don’t return
Top 6 Reasons Why Cat Owners Don’t Take Cat to the Vet
The first phase of Bayer’s study focused on the decline in veterinary usage from the cat owners’ perspective identifying six root causes:
- Economy or recession
- Fragmentation of veterinary services
- Pet parents using the Internet versus office visits
- Cats resistance or fear of going to the vet
- Regular check-ups are unnecessary
- Cost of vet care
The study revealed that cat owners don’t understand the value and importance of regular checkups thinking they are unnecessary because they:
- Don’t believe cats hide symptoms — 75%
- Believe cats are low maintenance — 51%
- Think indoor cats have a lower risk of problems — 63%
How easy is it for cat owners to fall into these categories? I consider myself an experienced and responsible cat owner, yet I used these very excuses to not take Rhette to the vet for a year. After having surgery last June to remove some lumps, when his yearly exam came due, I didn’t take him at the time because I couldn’t afford it. I had to use all my energy and budget into taking care of Taffy’s illness and Dolly emergencies, putting Rhette’s health last. To justify putting off Rhette’s vet visit, I convinced myself he was fine because of the test results, knowing there weren’t any health issues. Besides, he’s an indoor cat — they have a lower risk of problems, right? But, when the year was up since his blood work, I in all consciousness, could not put off taking him in any longer, and I did.
Are Cat-Friendly Veterinary Practices the Answer to Better Cat Health?
With the purpose to improve veterinary care of cats, by determining why visits are declining, and helping veterinarians reverse the trend, the study proposed to understand and develop solutions to overcoming obstacles to cat care.
First, the study identified veterinarian biases to caring for cats:
- Not all vets are cat people — 48% prefer dogs, while only 17% prefer cats
- Dogs are easier to work with during exams than cats — 90% versus 65%
- Cats are more challenging to diagnose than dogs — 57% versus 34%
- Vets believe dogs actually enjoy visiting the clinic — 79% versus 15%
- Vets admit to not having conducted a yearly wellness exam on their own cats — 20%
The collaboration between Bayer HealthCare and the AAVP hope to uncover the obstacles to routine veterinary care for cats and find practical solutions to help remove them. It aims to foster greater awareness and adoption of the AAFP’s “Cat Friendly Practice” (CFP) Program.
10 Things Vets Can Do to Increase Cat Visits
To help increase cat visits to the vet, Bayer HealthCare and the AAFP suggest the following:
- Ask about other household pets to find the under- or un-served pets
- To alleviate stressful trips educate cat owners on carrier use and transporting cats
- Provide separate waiting rooms for dogs and cats
- Provide an exam rooms for cats only
- Train all staff in cat-friendly handling.
- Review and refine feline exam protocols
- Talk through the exam with cat owners
- Use and dispense feline-friendly medications
- Send home an exam report every time
- Schedule the next exam before the cat leaves the practice
As a result of these findings have you noticed your vet as more “cat friendly?” For us, our vet is a small, but very busy neighborhood vet in the city. In the 20 plus years I’ve taken my cats there, and now dogs, I never felt they weren’t cat friendly. This is the vet that resuscitated my Peaches in the middle of the night from drowning in her own vomit. He loved that cat even though she did nothing but try to tear him to pieces. In fact, I found it surprising to learn that our vet has a dog now on a recent visit with Dolly, as he’s had cats in the past, not to mention the clinic’s own cats.
Most importantly of all, use #TakeYourCatToTheVetDay as a reminder that cats, indoor or out, young or old, need regular visits to the vet. Their health is just as important as any pet and your vet should not treat cats any less important than your other pets.