Has your cat been to the vet lately?
There are more cats than dogs in Canada, however two-thirds of cats do not receive regular vet care compared to their canine counterparts. This disconnect may be due in part to the solitary nature of cats, which means owners are slower to notice signs of illness in cats than in dogs. Another major barrier is that vet visits are stressful to the cat and the owner. As a result many cats are only seen by a veterinarian when they are sick or suffering, so these cats are not getting the preventive health care they deserve.
Cats are masters at hiding signs of sickness, so by the time the owner is aware of a problem it may be more advanced and challenging to treat.
The average adult cat should have a physical exam at least once a year to screen for disease, and senior cats (eight years and older) should be examined every six months. Any changes from normal should also be investigated, such as urinating outside the litterbox; weight loss or gain; changes in food and water intake; lack of grooming; changes in behaviour or vocalization; vomiting or diarrhea; and bad breath.
The first step in taking a cat to the vet is to invest in a sturdy plastic cat carrier. Ideally the carrier should be left out in the living area for a few days, and some toys, treats and blankets placed inside so the cat can get used to it. Cats are highly sensitive to scent, so wiping the inside of the carrier with a pheromone wipe (Feliway®) is comforting. Another suggestion is to withhold food (but not water) for a few hours prior to the vet appointment to reduce motion sickness in the car. Some owners put a calming ThunderShirt™ on their cat to ease the stress of car rides, or you could ask your veterinarian about a mild tranquilizer.
Our goal as veterinarians is to minimize stress and to educate owners on the value of preventative health care to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy. At a Cat Friendly Practice®, cats are kept completely separate from dogs and placed in a cat-only exam room that reduces stress, noise and unfamiliar smells. Every effort is taken to make vet visits a positive experience for both the cat and the owner.
Dr. Laura McKenny is a veterinarian at Airdrie Animal Health Centre.