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Cat Veterinary Visits Decline: Why it's important to reverse the trend

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     A majority of cat owners will be able to relate to that dreaded day they face with their cat. The night before, you begin detailing your strategy. You plot and stress over every step. As your eyes begin rolling into the back of your head, you wonder if it’s ‘really’ necessary: Taking your cat to the veterinarian. The trigger which sent our cat into a hasty retreat was the sound of the carrier door hinges creaking from the porch. In an instant he was blending into the carpet, and crawling more quickly to hide under the bed than he would towards a pound of catnip.  A flashlight revealed his location far back against the wall, and the rest of this process was grueling.  After several trials, we now have an annual 10-step plan for cat-in-carrier success that even the U.S. Secretary of Defense could endorse.

     Perhaps these common challenges which cat owners face are factors that contribute to the latest reports on cat ownership and the frequency of their veterinary visits: According to the “2012 AVMA U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Source Book”, a staggering 44.9% of cat owners did not take their cat to the veterinarian once in 2011. This statistic causes experts to wonder: Why the decline?

Ensuring that your cat visits the veterinarian at least once a year is very important for optimal health and life expectancy. From the AVMA report, the number one reason that cat owners did not visit their veterinarian for the entire year was because “the cat did not get sick or injured” (53%). Here are some important things to consider:
  • Cats instinctively hide their symptoms of pain: Even though your cat is a domestic pet, the "call of the wild" still dominates: Cats that exhibit signs of pain are seen as more vulnerable to predators, which causes them to mask their symptoms of discomfort. Although your cat appears to be fine at home, an annual exam with your veterinarian will provide reassurance that physical and emotional health are ideal.
  • Physical exams don’t tell us everything: Diagnostic testing once a year can provide very useful information about your cat’s biological health. Cats are very susceptible to urinary crytals and blockage, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and kidney disease. Monitoring these values to detect early stage conditions will help considerably.
The other reasons that owners did not take their cat to the vet in a 12-month-period were the following:
  • Financial concern: 21.5%
  • Cat did not need vaccines: 17.3%
  • Too hard to transport: 3.2%
  • Other: 4.1%
     The good news is that by a landslide, a majority of cat owners still value their cat as being “members of the family” as opposed to “property”.  This is what causes us to endure the all-too-often inconveniences of getting our cat into a carrier and making the journey.

     By ensuring that your cat sees your veterinarian a minimum of once a year, you are offering the best health care possible, saving yourself from more costly visits during the later years, and most importantly, adding to the years that you and your cat will spend together.  
 Based in Chicago, Jennifer Lutz is a medical writer with extensive experience in the veterinary industry, including: Sales, marketing, consulting, and education.
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