Veterinarians are seeing fewer cats than dogs. However, cat ownership has increased dramatically in recent years, with cats now ranked as the nation’s #1 companion animal. There are about 88.3 million owned cats in the country and 74.8 million owned dogs, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey.
Also, we learned from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and demographics Sourcebook, that cat visits had decline 11% from 2001 to 2006, even though the number of owned cats increased.
So why is this?
Experts and veterinarians believe the discrepancy stems from simple convenience. Cats are less accustomed to transport and travel than dogs. Therefore, its typically more of a hassle to bring a cat to the veterinarian than to bring a dog. People are used to taking their dogs with them on excursions in their car – so it’s not as stressful to take the dog to the vet as it is to take the cat in. So it’s easier for the client when they get the reminder postcard just to throw their dog in the car and run to the vet.
Because veterinary visits often are more difficult and traumatic for cats, owners may be less inclined to make the effort unless their cat is visibly suffering or sick – increasing the likelihood of skipped routine check-ups.
Another factor may be the perception that cat are independent, and self-reliant creatures. But ironically, it is precisely that self-reliant nature that warrents more caution on the part of the cat owner. Cats are extremely good at hiding illness. They don’t show major outwards signs even when something is wrong. So for a lot of people, the perception is, “Why go through all the trouble and spend all that money when they seem fine?”
But any change in a cat’s activity or habits warrants attention. For example, in its early stages, chronic kidney disease begins with nothing more than a subtle increase in water consumption, or a subtle increase in urination frequency. And diabetes – a common but serious condition in cats – begins with symptoms like small weight loss and changes in water consumption.
In today’s recession, keeping a cat healthy actually is more cost-effective than treating a problem once it is under way.
Another factor that may impact cat care is the homeopathic movement. After it was discovered about 15 years ago that some cats developed injection-site sarcomas after vaccinations, many owners and some veterinarians concluded that routine vaccinations were not worth the risk of cancer.
However, while the final decision to vaccinate is up to owners, veterinarians caution against letting fear of vaccinations stand in the way of basic veterinary care.
Other owners may assume that if their cat stays indoors, it is not at risk of contracting the diseases vaccinations are meant to prevent. But even indoor cats risk contracting a respiratory virus. Unvaccinated cats can and will be exposed to the viruses these vaccines prevent. Cat owners should discuss their concerns with their veterinarians to make well-informed choices.