Cats are notoriously underserved when it comes to veterinary care. The American Association of Feline Practitioners shares the following statistics:
- In the United States, there are 86 Million Owned Cats and 78 Million Owned Dogs.
- Almost twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian.
- Of the cats that do visit the veterinarian, they average 26% fewer visits than dogs.
- 41% of cat owners visit the veterinarian only for vaccinations.
- 39% of cat owners say they would only take their cat to the veterinarian if the cat was sick.
- 60% of cat owners report that their cat hates going to the veterinarian.
- 38% of cat owners report that they get stressed just thinking about bringing their cat to the practice.
These numbers are alarming, because they support the misconception that cats don’t need the same level of care as dogs. In fact, quite the opposite may be true. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics and cats with known medical conditions. I recommend bi-annual exams for cats age 7 and older. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, and annual or bi-annual exams are the best way to detect problems early. Once a cat shows symptoms, treatment may be much more extensive, not as effective, and will also cost more.
One barrier to regular vet visits for cat guardians is the fact that so many cats get so stressed when they have to go to the vet’s. Going to a veterinary clinic where the doctors and staff understand cats can go a long way towards making the experience less stressful. If at all possible, look for a feline-only practice. You will find more and more of these practices in large, metropolitan areas, and even in some smaller, rural areas. If an all-feline practice is not an option where you live, look for a cat-friendly practice.
Earlier this year, the AAFP rolled out its cat-friendly practice initiative. The goals of the initiative are to:
- Lay the groundwork for the delivery of care to the underserved feline population.
- Identify trends and baseline species information essential for understanding cats.
- Acknowledg the essential role of the cat owner in the veterinary visit.
- Provide support to veterinarians and their teams to create a cat friendly practice environment.
- Outline strategies for introducing changes in the delivery of care that incorporate a better understanding of the cat’s distinct needs and behaviors.
Certification requires a practice to have at least one staff member who belongs to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, though a practice does not need to specialize specifically in cats. Practices must comply with a 10-item checklist and send it to the AAFP for review.
You can search for a cat-friendly practice by country, state/provide, or city on the AAFP website.
Is your vet feline-friendly? If you like them, leave their name and location in a comment, and tell us a little bit about what makes them cat-friendly.