Special to GUIDON
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is a decrease in the number of visits felines are having with a veterinarian each year.
The numbers were reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association Jan. 15.
From 2011 to 2016, cat ownership decreased by 5 percent in households in the United States.
Additionally, only 25 percent of these cats were seen by a veterinarian in 2016. This is in stark contrast to the 71.6 percent of dogs that were seen in 2016. Furthermore, over 50 percent of cats did not obtain routine care in 2016, in contrast to only 20.9 percent of dogs the same year.
According to the AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, the top reasons given for not taking dogs or cats the veterinarian are: the dog or cat did not get sick or injured, the owner did not have the money, the pet did not need vaccines, or the owner gives vaccines and health care to the pet.
These reasons are not difficult to comprehend as a primary care veterinarian. However, the justifications are much more difficult to counteract.
The barriers to care are evident to veterinarians but may be difficult to overcome for owners. Most cats are masters at hiding their illnesses and can have no change to behavior, appetite, or energy level.
Without astute observation and keen awareness of minute changes in feline activity, many owners are not aware their feline friend is becoming ill. Many owners are also unaware to look for these changes or might have multiple cats, both of which may compound the problem.
Secondly, many feline owners aren’t aware of the recommendations surrounding preventative care for their pet. Regardless of whether their pet needs a vaccination, feline patients should be seen by a veterinarian for an exam annually.
During this examination period, veterinarians can pick up on some disease processes that owners may not note are developing.
Felines are also very wary of their kennel or carrier. To minimize this barrier to care, veterinarians frequently recommend cat carriers be kept in an area accessible to the patient year-round and may even encourage owners to feed their cat in the carrier or break the carrier down to entice the pet to enter the carrier on their own.
Lastly, directing and customizing pet care to the needs of the pet along with the wishes of the client are necessary steps to promote feline visits to the veterinarian. Improving welfare and anxiety-free veterinary visits for cats is not seen as optional any longer.
By ensuring clients that we are there to help their animal and working as a team with the owner to minimize stress and improve well-being, veterinarians can help to bridge the increasing gap of under-served feline patients in the United States.
(Editor’s note: This article was submitted from the Fort Leonard Wood Vet Branch.)