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.

11 Comments on A Cat Guardian’s Bill of Rights for Vet Visits

  1. Thanks for that imformation. I like to be with my cats during everything, not have them “whished to a back room”. I think a cat feels more comfortable if their human is with them. I feel more comfortable to with my cat.

  2. Agree with Squeakie’s comment; cat-only vets are more expensive, and they hit hard on the ‘update shots’ thing, at least in my experience. I would LOVE a mobile vet, as Anjali comments, but there are none around me. Heck, if a rolling vet showed up in my driveway, I’d be able to coax my friendly ferals to jump inside for a health check, otherwise I must trap them, and vets are really funny about ‘feral’ cats; they all seem to mention euthanasia within a few minutes, when all the cats needs is some antibiotics for a scratch infection!

    • A truly good vet will not “push shots,” they will tailor vaccinations to each cat’s individual needs. Perhaps I should have added that to the list.

  3. The Bill of Rights is a great post, although some clients may be reluctant to request a change in procedure if ‘whisking a cat into the back’ is the standard procedure at their regular vet’s. A little coaching re: how to request these things might be helpful. Re: cat-friendly practices, I understand about the expenses of small group practices, but a recent experience at a nearby “cat-friendly” practice was quite a jolt. I was impressed with their set-up, the vet, techs, and receptionist — everything designed to keep cats & their humans comfortable and calm. I’d brought a rescued cat in to be tested for FIV & FeLV, until I could locate her owner. They were very insistent about vaccinations, as well, and a treatment to prevent any further problems after tick exposure. I’m retired, living on a fixed income, and $300 later, I had sticker shock. When I brought her back for a “booster” shot, they charged $20 for a nail clip, which my regular vet’s office — a farther distance to travel in winter weather — does as a ‘courtesy’ service. I think that these specialty environments are terrific, but may result in higher fees that put them out of reach for the average client.

  4. Great info. Should be printed out and mailed to every vet in your community to make them aware that we KNOW the kind of care our kitties should receive and as their guardians, the information we must receive.

  5. Thank you for this great post! I think we can not underestimate the extreme stress of trying to get a cat into a carrier and then driving the cat to the vet. I have to trust the vet 1,000% as pur cats are family. One huge way to improve vet care for cats would be to bring back mobile vets in more communities. Our mobile vet has a full service clinic in his van, which he parks in our driveway. Our cats have had dental and spay/neuter surgeries in the van. Driving a cat to the vet is hugely stressful for me and the cat, and clinics are often full of barking dogs and other sick animals. In the van, we are the only clients. We walk to the driveway, minimal stress. For some minor things, the vet even comes into the house. We still go to the state’s top of the line ER clinic for anything urgent or serious, but our mobile vet has been a lifesaver. He’s also able to reach people who are homebound. Plus we are friends with him and his assistants, and he would allow us to be present for all procedures. He doesn’t whisk the cat off into a back room. I choose not to observe surgeries as I don’t want to disrupt his concentration. Also, it’s very important to me that the vet’s attitude about animals aligns with mine. My vet also lives with multiple cats he loves as family.

  6. Very sensible and essential information; happy to say that the vet I go (UK) fulfils all that you put in your “Bill of Rights” and have no complaints about them – other than the expense, but money is always the bottom line

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.