Cats are America's #1 pet
There are 86.4 million pet cats in the United States, compared with 78.2 million pet dogs, making cats the most popular pet. A third of U.S. households own at least one cat and more than half of those own at least two.
Since the days of the ancient Egyptians and throughout history cats have earned their reputation as affectionate, intelligent, clean, easily trainable, playful and fun family pets. As a cat owner, you probably agree.
Despite the fact that in the last five years the number of pet cats has increased to more than 4 million, the number of feline veterinarian visits is declining. Compared with dogs, nearly three times as many cats did not receive any veterinary care in the past year. This disturbing trend is leading many veterinary professionals to ask pet owners, "Have we seen your cat lately?"
The American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association recommend a minimum of one annual wellness exam for cats, with more frequent exams for senior and geriatric patients, or those cats with medical or behavioral conditions.
There are several commonly held misperceptions that keep some cat owners from getting the regular veterinary care their cats need.
These myths include:
Here are questions that veterinary professionals frequently get asked about cats.
Q: I've heard that cats are naturally very healthy and don't need to go to the veterinarian as often as dogs do. Is this right?
A: Cats are no more or less healthy than dogs and require annual wellness exams just as much as dogs do. Also, cats are notorious for hiding illness, and cat owners may not be aware their cats are sick until the illness has become critical and requires longer and more extensive treatment.
Q: I can't get my kitty in a carrier to take her to the veterinarian. She runs off and hides and then when I find her and pick her up, she tries to bite and scratch me. It's been almost two years since she's been to the veterinarian. Any ideas would be helpful, because I know she needs her shots.
A: Your cat is just being fearful of the carrier because it means a ride in the car and a visit to an unfamiliar place. Try keeping the carrier open in your home with her favorite blanket, toy or treats in it. This allows her to become accustomed to the carrier and see it as a comfortable place to sleep or play. After a couple of weeks of this, try getting her in the carrier and taking a short ride in the car. Do this several more times so she'll begin to lose her fear and allow you to get her to the clinic for the exam. For more tips of taking your cat to the veterinarian, watch our helpful instructional video.
Q: My cat is very healthy, so I don't know why she needs to go to the veterinarian every year for an exam. If she get sick, I'll know it and we'll go then.
A: Did you know that cats instinctively hide illness? There's a good chance you won't know if your cat is sick, especially in the early stages of any illness. Annual exams may uncover an underlying illness or condition. Diagnosing illnesses or conditions and beginning treatment early can save your cat a lot of suffering later if the disease or condition has progressed.
Here are questions that veterinary professionals are frequently asked about cats.
Q: My cat is strictly an indoor cat so I don't see why he needs any shots.
A: Indoor cats are still at risk for a wide variety of diseases. Also, you can never be 100% certain your indoor kitty won't ever get outside or the new cat you adopted is not harboring a disease that can be transmitted to other cats. And while indoor cats may be exposed to fewer diseases than outdoor cats, indoor cats may be exposed to many disease pathogens. We recommend vaccinations and parasite control measures for all cats regardless of where they spend their time. Prevention is always better and less expensive than treatment.
Q: My cat gets the three-year shots, so doesn't this mean I just take her for an exam every three years, instead of every year?
A: Even if your veterinarian gives your cat three-year vaccinations, your cat still needs to be seen by your veterinarian at least once a year. Vaccinations are just one component of the wellness visit. Regular wellness exams are critical to keeping your cat in optimum health, regardless how often vaccines are administered. The American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association recommend a minimum of one annual wellness exam for cats, with more frequent exams for senior and geriatric patients, or those cats with medical or behavioral conditions.
Q: It seems like my cats have to get a lot of vaccinations. Do they really need all of them?
A: Your veterinarian will determine the vaccinations your cats need based on the results of their health histories, ages and lifestyles at their annual wellness exams. The important thing to remember is serious infectious feline diseases are still prevalent and if your cats are not vaccinated against them, they're at risk. Have confidence that your veterinarian will recommend only the appropriate vaccinations your cats need - nothing less and nothing more.
Here are questions that veterinary professionals are frequently asked about cats.
Q: I adopted a cat from the shelter. He's been neutered, and my veterinarian thinks he's about two years old. My problem is I want him to stay inside and be a housecat, but he keeps crying until I let him out. What can I do?
A: Your cat was probably allowed outside before you adopted him. However, if you continue to let him outside, he's not going to make the transition to becoming an indoor cat. Practice a little tough love and do your best to keep him inside. After all, it's in his best interest because he will likely live a much longer, healthier life. Try making the indoors more stimulating by having play sessions, cat toys and providing a window perch where he can safely enjoy the outside. Over time he will probably adapt and become the indoor kitty you want.
Q: My 15-year-old cat used to lick his hair and keep himself very neat and clean. Lately, I've found some mats on him, and he doesn't seem to spend as much time taking care of himself. Should I be concerned?
A: There are often changes in grooming behavior as cats get older. It's not uncommon for cats to put on a little weight as they age, and he may not be able to reach certain parts of his body. At his age, he may also have some arthritis limiting his mobility and making the grooming process painful. Any cat that stops grooming himself may be showing signs of illness and should have a veterinary exam.
Q: My cat has always been great about using his litter box, and he never has an accident. Lately, however, he has started going outside the litter box, not in it. Why is he doing this, and what can I do about it?
A: An abrupt change in your cat's litter box behavior suggests there's something going on with your cat. It is important to keep the litter box clean and to consider recent changes in location or type of litter used. There are several medical conditions associated with his change in behavior, including lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. It could also be a sign of arthritis, which makes it difficult for him to get into the litter box. Make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to uncover any medical conditions that could be affecting his elimination behavior.
Q: I recently got a new kitten from the shelter and my older cat is having trouble adjusting. He is hiding behind the couch, and bites and scratches me when I pick him up. Will this change eventually, and is there something I should do about it?
A: It takes most cats a while to adjust to a new household pet. Some cats may be fearful and show it by becoming a bit aggressive, some hide out and some just ignore the whole thing. Overall, all cats are somewhat stressed at any change in their environment. The veterinary professionals at your clinic are skilled in helping you work through behavior issues, just as they are experts in addressing medical problems. They can suggest some strategies that can keep everyone in the household happier.