America’s cats are not receiving the health care they deserve. The findings of a feline health study conducted by Bayer Health Care found that 52% of America’s 74 million cats are not receiving regular veterinary care. The actual number is probably much higher, since this study only captured data from cat guardians who do seek some veterinary care, not those who never take their cat to the vet. The study also showed that cat guardians are not willing to spend as much money on healthcare for their feline charges as dog guardians. Ironically, while spending on veterinary care is declining, spending on pet products is increasing steadily each year.
Why feline veterinary visits are declining
There are two problems with declining veterinary visits for cats. One is the perception among many cat guardians that cats are self-sufficient. And while cats may be more independent than dogs, they’re also masters at hiding signs of illness, which is why regular veterinary exams are so important. By the time a cat shows symptoms, the disease may already be in the advanced stages, requiring more extensive, and expensive, care. The second problem is that taking a cat to the vet is stressful for most cats and their guardians.
I’ve previously discussed ways to make vet visits less stressful for cats, but one aspect I haven’t written about is that vet visits can often be intimidating for the cat’s guardian. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the information presented? Maybe you’re unsure of what’s normal and what’s not acceptable when it comes to how your cat is treated? I’m offering the following bill of rights to give you a better understanding of what you should expect during a vet visit.
Cat guardian’s bill of rights
1. You have the right to expect that staff at the vet clinic is trained to minimize stress for cats and their humans. Look for a feline-only practice, or a practice with the “cat-friendly” designation awarded by the AAFP.
2. You have the right to expect a clean facility – this begins with the waiting areas, exam rooms and extends to the treatment room and surgical facilities. It is not unreasonable to assume that a clinic with dust bunnies in the waiting room will not take care with keeping other areas clean and sterile as needed.
3. You have the right to expect a thorough and detailed explanation of any treatments recommended for your cats. It is up to the vet clinic to schedule appointments that are long enough to allow time to address all of your questions. You should never be made to feel that a vet or staff member doesn’t have time to answer your questions.
4. You have the right to a cost estimate prior to any treatments or procedures. If finances are an issue, your vet should discuss options with you that allow your cat to receive the care she needs while not putting undue strain on your budget.
5. You have the right to be present with your cat for any procedures that do not require anesthesia or exposure to radiation (x-rays). Unless you prefer to not be with your cat during treatments, or experience extreme anxiety at the thought of these procedures, there is no reason why your cat needs to be whisked off to “the back” for blood draws, nail clips, etc. Most cats are less fearful and more comfortable if their “person” is nearby during these events.
6. You have the right for frequent updates about your cat’s condition, should your cat need to be hospitalized. Veterinary staff know that you’re anxious, and they want to keep you informed how your cat is doing. Ask how frequently you can call for updates, and ask about the best times to call.
7. You have the right to copies of your cat’s vet record. In an emergency, quick access to your cat’s record for the treating ER vet could save your cat’s life. This is especially important for cats with chronic health issues or senior cats.