Veterinarian visits, and ultimately cats’ health, can depend on habits established by the owner in the cat’s first year of life. However, research shows that only 40% of cats are medicalized compared to 60% of dogs and that only 50% of owners take their new kitten to the vet after acquisition.
Cat owners reveal numerous pain points preventing them from visiting regularly with their veterinarian
The main reasons why cat owners are postponing their visit to the vet are: thinking that the cat has a minor problem that will resolve by itself (38%), finding visiting the veterinarian stressful (22%), financial burden (17%), and not wanting to be pressured to do unnecessary treatments (14%).
In fact, more than 50% of cat owners go to the vet after their cat showed symptoms of being ill or was injured. However, cats are secretive by nature and often only show signs of illness when it is well-advanced. These traits go back to when they lived in the wild and had an initial reflex of hiding their illness or injury in order not to be in a weak position at the mercy of a predator. Consequently, as their behavior makes it hard for owners to discover symptoms, cats are often taken to the vet far too late in the evolution of the disease.
Cats also have a reputation of being independent and resistant, which often give their owners the false impression that they can take care of themselves.
Despite this, two thirds (66%) of respondents said they would take their cat to the vet more often if it was easier to do so. A total of 8% of cat owners said that the stress of veterinary visits began at home, with the difficulty of putting their cat into a pet carrier, which is followed by the skittishness of felines once at the vet, especially if dogs are around.
Why taking cats to the vet and starting when they are kittens is critical in the prevention of diseases
Today, numerous adult cats are suffering from illness that started to develop in the earlier stages of life, such as obesity. Even though a chubby cat may look cute to some, that extra weight puts the pet at risk of uncomfortable diseases and a shortened lifespan. Establishing a habit of taking cats to the vet regularly from an early age is therefore crucial.
As discovering cats’ illnesses can be challenging, veterinary visits should not be limited to treating an illness or pain: pet check-ups should be done bi-annually or annually at a minimum. Preventative healthcare, which includes prevention, early detection and reducing the impact of disease, is essential for cats’ health and well-being.
Research from the International Cat Care shows that more than 40% of cat owners would not take their cat to the vet unless a vaccine is needed. Vaccinations are indeed highly important as they are the best way to protect your pet and your family against illness and disease, however, check-ups are more than ensuring vaccinations are up to date. Regular visits allow veterinarians to learn important details about a cat’s medical history and behaviors, monitor their body weight and discuss nutrition.
Starting regular visits from when cats are kittens also generally removes or drastically improves the hassle and stress related to visiting the vet, as the cat will become more familiar with the process and elements including the pet carrier. The pet owner will also receive nutritional advice, information on neutering and other health related tips from the cat’s start of life, which will give the kitten the best chances for a long and happy life. In fact, how we care for kittens impact their physical, social and mental health for the rest of their lives.
Sandra Manolescu, Chief Marketing Officer at Royal Canin, said: “We are currently dealing with numerous diseases in cats that are growing in prevalence that sadly could have been prevented by regular check-ups. That’s why tackling the problems associated with taking cats to the vet needs to be managed strategically with a focus on prevention, targeting kittens.”
Making vet’s visits more serene for cats and their owners by following simple tips
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, there are several additional things cat owners can do to make visits to the veterinarian more stress-free:
- Understand the cat’s behavior. The veterinarian’s office is unfamiliar and has sights, sounds, and smells that can cause cats to feel anxious or fearful. Cover their pet carrier with a towel to block the sight of other animals and dampen the unfamiliar sounds. Respect the cat’s need for time to acclimate to the new environment.
- Help the cat to become comfortable with the pet carrier. Place the carrier in a room at home where the cat spends most of their time and equip it with familiar soft bedding as well as special toys.
- Invest in a good pet carrier. Secure, stable, hard-sided carriers that open from the top and the front, and can also be taken apart in the middle, are best for cats.
- Take your cat to a Cat Friendly Clinic or a Cat Friendly Practice® in the US. These veterinary practices have made specific changes to decrease the stress and provide a more calming environment for the owners and the cat.
- Keep peace in a multi-cat household. Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how all your cats react to unfamiliar smells, and separate if there are signs of tension.
Royal Canin rallies cat owners to see the vet as part of the ‘Take Your Cat to the Vet’ campaign
In an effort to improve the health of cats and increase the frequency of veterinary visits by cat owners, Royal Canin is once again leading the charge for this year’s edition of the Take Your Cat to the Vet campaign, with a particular focus this year on raising awareness among kitten owners to encourage good habits and preventative care from an early stage of life.
Sandra Manolescu continues: “Our goal with the Take Your Cat to the Vet campaign is to rally cat owners, veterinarians, industry partners and even public figures together to shine the spotlight on the importance of veterinary care for cats. While the gap in preventive veterinary care between dogs and cats continues to be a concern, the great news is that it can be addressed.”
Joining the brand in urging more attention to this cause is the International Cat Care (ICatCare), a non-profit that strives to improve the health and welfare of domestic cats worldwide. The ICatCare has key programs that support the Take Your Cat to the Vet campaign, such as Cat Care for Life. This initiative from the charity, provides a partnership of care between cat owners and veterinary clinics for the lifelong health of cats.
Claire Bessant, chief executive on International Cat Care urges cat owners to become detectives for their cats’ health: “Cat owners know their cats very well and often have a feeling when something is not quite right – it may be a change in their activity, how interactive they are, how much they sleep or groom, whether they use a litter tray differently, or if they seem unsettled in some way. Owners should feel confident to visit their vet with their worries and to always mention these during regular check-ups – this partnership of care with the vet can help to prevent problems or catch them early before they become serious. Many veterinarians are understanding of the stresses associated with taking the cat to the vet and are working to reduce these as much as possible so that owners feel happy to visit and discuss their cat’s continued health as well as any worries.”
For more information and tips on stress-free vet visits for cat owners and cats or to learn more about Royal Canin, visit RoyalCanin.com.
A guide written by Natusan on the signs of cat stress and what to look out for, can also be found here.