The term “holistic” means different things to different people. Wikipedia defines holistic health as a “concept in medical practice upholding that all aspects of people’s needs, psychological, physical and social should be taken into account and seen as a whole.” The term “holistic” is often used interchangeably with “alternative” when it comes to health.
When I refer to a holistic approach to health care, whether it’s for cats or for humans, I mean an approach that takes into account all aspects of what make up a living being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Looking at health, and illness, holistically, also means looking for, and treating, the cause of a problem or illness, rather than just treating symptoms. Symptoms are almost always a manifestation of a deeper problem.
Holistic therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal treatments are gaining increasing acceptance for cats, as more people are understanding that true well-being encompasses body, mind and spirit. And as people are experiencing the benefits of alternative and holistic therapies for themselves, they’re also looking for alternative ways of caring for their cats.
I believe there are benefits to be derived from both a conventional as well as a holistic approach to health care for our cats, which is why I prefer the term integrative medicine. In other words, integrative medicine lets you pick the best of both worlds.
I’ve succesfully used homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki, and herbal treatments for my cats (and myself) over the years. My own philosophy leans toward using these types of therapies before I’ll turn to conventional medicine, but I would never rule out conventional treatments. Feebee underwent chemotherapy for intestinal lymphoma. Amber went through the radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism. Buckley was on multiple heart medications to manage her restrictive cardiomyopathy.
Finding a veterinarian who combines both approaches can be challenging. Even though many conventionally trained vets are open to holistic modalities, they’re not always trained in these practices. Rather than looking for a vet who can do it all, it may make more sense to either look for a holistic vet for your cat’s basic health care needs and be prepared to seek help from a conventional vet for things that require conventional treatment, or find a conventional vet who may not be practicing holistic modalities, but is open to her clients seeking such care, and willing to work with the client and/or a holistic veterinarian when indicated. Having a vet roll your eyes at your if you even mention holistic modalities probably means that this vet is not going to be a good choice for you if you plan on using alternative therapies for your cat.
The Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine provides resources for pet owners and veterinarians interested in the benefits of an integrative approach to animal healthcare.
Do you use holistic modalities for your cat? Which ones have you used? Is your vet supportive of your choice?