August 22 is “National Take Your Cat To The Vet Day.”  When I mentioned this one of the staff replied, “Ha! Every day should be take your cat to the vet day!” That fact is that based on what we see at the shelter cats are far less likely to have regular wellness visits with the vet than dogs.  There are a number of reasons why this could be the case.  First, cats don’t require town licenses the way dogs do so there’s no legal or monetary incentive to take them for regular vaccinations every year.  Second, cats have a more…independent…personality; going outside on their own, staying out all night, hunting mice and small animals.  This might lead some people to think that cats are fine left on their own or that they don’t need regular vet visits.  The reverse happens as well, an owner thinks that if she keeps her cat inside it doesn’t need to be seen yearly. However nothing could be further from the truth. Regular wellness visits are just as important for a cat as they are for a dog or even a human.  So let’s break it down and ask: why do cats need wellness visits?

Vaccines

Sure they can leap tall fences in a single bound, hunt prey with ruthless efficiency, and always land on their feet but cats are still susceptible to illness and preventing disease is a primary reason your cat needs an annual wellness visit.  A cat can receive a number of vaccines that will help keep it safe and healthy during its annual visit including rabies, feline distemper, and feline leukemia. Outdoor cats may be at a higher risk but it’s important to vaccinate indoor cats as well in case they should ever get outside or encounter an unfamiliar animal.  Some of these vaccines need to be repeated every year and some every three years but they are just as important to your cat’s good health as it would be for you to get a vaccine.

A “Tip To Tail” Check Up

When you take your cat to the vet the doctor will check it’s weight, eyes, ears, nose, temperature, and a variety of other vital statistics that can help her determine the overall health of your cat as well as catch any potential developing problems.  For example a sudden or significant change in weight might indicate a developing thyroid problem.  By catching things like this early and before they become a serious problem your vet will save your animal pain and save you money.  It’s a lot cheaper to prevent a problem than treat it after it’s become an issue or, even worse, an emergency.

A Chance To Address Behavior or Personality Issues

Vets are a fantastic resource in that they don’t just maintain the physical health of your cat, they are able to help gain insight into any behavioral or personality issues you may be dealing with as well.  Is your cat going to the bathroom outside of the litter box?  Cats generally don’t do that for no reason and the vet may be able to help you pinpoint reasons why and address them to fix the problem.  Has she suddenly started staying away from people and hissing whenever someone approaches?  It may indicate she’s in some kind of pain and your vet can help you find out what.  Is she vomiting all over the house?  The vet may be able to suggest a special food or a lifestyle change that could reduce kitty’s stress and relieve the problem.  If you have a solid relationship with your vet’s office you can even ask these types of questions at no cost over the phone but your vet can give you much more accurate information if they have up to date records on your animal.

Parasite Prevention

Today’s parasite preventatives are so much more than just a flea collar!  They can repel ticks, prevent round and tape worms, there are even heartworm preventatives for cats.  As someone who accidentally brought ringworm home once and had to have the whole family treated believe me, preventing as many parasites as possible from attacking your cat isn’t just a matter of its health, it’s a matter of yours too!

The Elephant In The Room

It’s expensive.  Yes.  An annual check-up can run anywhere from $50 to over $100 depending on how old the cat is, what sort of work-up it needs, whether it needs something additional like medication, etc.  There are two things I can say about that.  The first is that the shelter can refer you to several low cost animal clinics in the area that will service your cat for a reduced fee.  We also offer a rabies clinic every spring, which doesn’t take the place of a wellness check-up but can reduce the overall cost.

The second thing is a little harder but I’m going to say it anyway because it needs to be out there.  It’s that when we decide to get a pet we are taking responsibility for that animal’s life for the rest of its life.  Not for the rest of its life when it’s convenient or for the rest of its life when it’s not too expensive but for the rest of its life. Period.  That means that before we make the decision to get an animal we should be planning a budget for medical expenses the same way we should plan a budget for pet food, plan for spaying or neutering if needed, or plan for care for the animal when we go on vacation or out of town.  We all have a life outside of our pet, plans, expenses, dreams; ours pet have no life though outside of us.  They trust us completely for food, fun, enrichment, love, and health.  Taking responsibility for those things is just one way we prove ourselves deserving of that trust.

So this August 22 have a happy National Take Your Cat To The Vet Day.  In fact any day you can, schedule your cat’s annual wellness visit and make it a happy take your cat to the vet day.

 

If you are interested in writing for the APCSM blog or have a topic you’d like to see addressed please email Kim K at K.Kokkotos@apcsm.org.

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