Fewer Clinic Visits Put Cat Health at Risk

(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) ” The well-being of America’s cats is in danger. Many feline health practitioners fear cats are not receiving the frequency of veterinary care they need. To help cat lovers keep their pets healthy, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and Fort Dodge Animal Health have teamed up to create an educational campaign, “Healthy Cats for Life.” The campaign focuses on helping cat owners watch for the subtle signs of sickness and recognize the importance of twice-a-year wellness exams.

“We feel this campaign addresses issues faced by cats and their owners, such as getting the cat to the clinic, misunderstanding feline behavior and the fact that cats are masters at hiding illness,” says James R. Richards, DVM, Director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a past-president of the AAFP. The program includes a clinic education kit, which is designed to help veterinarians communicate with pet owners about cat health and behavior issues. To raise awareness among the cat-owning public, the campaign also includes distribution of media kits to national media outlets, interviews of Dr. Richards and an official Web site, www.catwellness.org.

According to a report* by Bardsley Neidhart Research (BN Research) done on behalf of Banfield, The Pet Hospital®, 33 million cats do not receive regular veterinary care, compared to seven million dogs. Also, cats visit the veterinarian half as often as dogs, even though they outnumber them by 20 percent. This means many feline illnesses and diseases possibly go undetected until it’s too late.

One reason for fewer veterinary visits may be the difficulty of transporting a cat to the clinic. According to the BNResearch report, 30 percent of owners find it difficult to catch the cat, place it in a carrier and bring it to the veterinarian.

“Getting a cat into a car and then, into a strange building may seem intimidating,” says Ilona Rodan, DVM, Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, certified in Feline Practice and a past-president of the AAFP. “But there are certainly ways to make veterinary visits pleasant,” she adds. The campaign’s educational kit includes tips and information on transporting a cat to the clinic and how to make the visit go more smoothly.

Some owners may believe the myth that cats are supposedly able to “take care” of themselves without much human intervention. According to the BNResearch report, owners may only seek professional advice when they notice a serious illness.

“Cats are designed by nature to hide their illnesses,” says Dr. Richards. “So, it may not always be obvious if they are sick.” However, you can watch for changes in normal routine or behavior. According to the Feline Behavior Guidelines report from the AAFP, changes in behavior may actually be subtle signs of sickness. Information from the report was used to develop some of the messages and materials in this campaign.

Another possible reason for fewer veterinary visits is the misunderstanding of cats’ behavior. The AAFP report says research shows negative behaviors ” from destroying furniture to urinating outside the litter box ” are the most common reasons cats are euthanized. These behaviors may simply be normal behaviors that can be addressed by a veterinarian or they may be signs of sickness.

The AAFP and Fort Dodge want cat owners to be aware of the threats to their pets’ health, and that twice-a-year wellness exams can help detect, treat and, ideally, prevent health problems before they become serious. For more information, visit www.catwellness.org.

The AAFP is a professional organization of veterinarians who share an interest in providing excellent care and treatment of cats and are dedicated to the profession of feline health care.

Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of prescription and over-the-counter animal health care products for the livestock, companion animal, equine, swine and poultry industries in North America and international markets.

*The report includes information and data collected from a variety of research surveys and sources. Cat owners from random hospitals throughout the United States were included in the surveys.


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