The truth about CATS, published today in USA WEEKEND Magazine, describes what author Steve Dale calls a “dirty little secret:” the fact that there are nearly 10 million more pet cats than pet dogs in the US, but they often get the short shrift—in the form of poor public perception, less frequent veterinary care, and fewer research dollars spent on feline diseases and health care.
The article is interesting, but hardly surprising when you consider that the patient list at Priority Pet Hospital is 70% canine and only 30% feline. Statistically speaking, cats make up a 53% majority of household pets in the United States, but this trend is common in most veterinary practices. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that veterinary visits for cats have fallen 11% since 2001, with more than a third never visiting a veterinarian in 2006 (compared with only 17% of dogs who missed their annual exam).
This is a disturbing trend considering that cats tend to be much better at hiding subtle signs of illness that—when detected early—might be managed or even cured with the help of your veterinarian.Part of this trend may be due to the fact that veterinarians, in our effort to minimize the risk of vaccine-related tumors in cats, have been making changes to feline vaccine protocols over the last several years; this often means that cats aren’t vaccinated every year. While current evidence suggests that this is good medicine, we may ultimately be failing our feline patients by not emphasizing the benefit of annual physical examinations, which are a critical opportunity to screen for disease and discuss optimum health care with cat owners.
Both Dr. Burns and I have recently met cats who, after a long hiatus in veterinary care, were euthanized because a disease that may have been managed with early detection was permitted to progress to the point where little could be done. While cats seem independent, they still need the help of their owners and veterinarians to protect their health. So, rather than let the scene at left play out at your home, don’t forget to include your feline housemates in your pet-care plans.