This week is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week.
Oh joy of joys!
If you are one of those cat guardians who dread the thought of taking your cat to the veterinarian, you're not alone. According to pet research sites, nearly 40 percent of cat owners stress out thinking about going to the vet. Additionally, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, while an estimated 58 percent of dogs visit the vet for routine exams, the same can be said for only 28 percent of cats. Most cat people also claim their cats hate the trip more than they do.
While it's true that most cats have "vetphobia," cats need veterinary care as much as dogs, maybe even more. Cats are more self-sufficient than dogs. They are also better at hiding illness symptoms that would be more obvious in a dog's typical behavior. In short, people assume a cat's health is normal because the cat is acting normal. But this isn't always the case.
It's very important that your cat receives preventive, annual wellness exams and that it stays up to date with vaccines and inoculations for optimal physical and emotional health and life expectancy. As cats get older, it is especially important to get fecal and urinary tests, blood work and dental checks on a regular basis to prevent the onset of serious health issues.
A single, scary visit to a vet's office can set up both you and your cat for a lifetime of grief. Here are some things you can do from the time cats are tiny kittens to make it easier for them to get the health care they need.
- Make the carrier a positive place. Leave the carrier in the bedroom or where the kitty hangs out most. Keep a comfy bed inside and regularly feed them treats in the carrier.
- Cover the carrier on the trip to the vet and while in the waiting room. This gives cats a more secure feeling during the process.
- Go on practice car rides from the time they are young. Start with a quick trip out and back on the driveway and then around the block. Remember to give them treats before and after each outing.
- Do mini "exams" at home. While they are relaxed and enjoying some attention from you, handle their paws and open their mouths and touch their teeth. Gently feel around their stomach and backsides. Do this slowly so they get accustomed to the feel and use lots of praise and treats.
- Try spraying some Comfort Zone Feliway (petcomfortzone.com) on your cat's bedding when you're getting ready to go for a vet visit. You also can try a dose of Bach Rescue Remedy (bachflower.com or available at most health food stores).
- If possible, find a cat-only veterinarian or ask for an appointment when there are no barking dogs scheduled to be in the facility at the same time. Ask for an exam room that has been used to see only cats on that day.
Please don't forget your veterinarian's well-being in all of this. The vet is likely to get more of the brunt of the situation. Show your appreciation by doing a few simple things such as arriving five minutes early, treating the front office staff with respect and being prepared to answer questions pertaining to any possible health issues. And for no reason at all, you even could stop by with a plate of brownies or cookies or a loaf of homemade bread.
Our cats are our family and I think you'll agree that it's worth it to learn how to make the journey to your vet's office less of a nightmare and more tolerable for you both.
Albertson co-manages Happy Cats Haven, a rescue and adoption center at 1412 S. 21st St. Call 635-5000 or visit happycatshaven.org. Email questions to AskingMsKitty@gmail.com.