What is it with people who will take their dog to the vet but won’t take their cat?
Last weekend, when I was sitting at the coffee shop with Cupcake, a man came to sit at the next table with this dog. After Cupcake asked the dog not to get all the way up in her face, the man struck up a conversation, first telling me he was waiting for a first date to arrive. Then he wanted to talk about dogs and cats.
Surprisingly, one of the first questions he asked was, “Do you take that cat to the vet?”
I thought he might be worried that Cupcake was carrying something she could transmit to this dog, and I said, “Of course I do. And she is on flea control.”
“Why? I don’t take my cat at home like I take him.” He gestured to his dog. “My cat is fourteen, and it’s not like he’s sick.”
“How can you tell? A lot of cat ailments start in ways you can’t see until they are really advanced. Like kidney disease. And at your cat’s age, you really need to be concerned about kidneys.”
The man didn’t look convinced. “I’ve always fed him good food. He eats something that is gentle for his system.”
I continued to try to explain it to him. “With your dog going outside, you probably need flea control for your cat.”
“My yard has a really good fence,” he told me.
I stopped arguing. Soon after, the man’s date arrived. As I sat at the next table with Cupcake, he tried to impress his date by telling her date all about the large house in Connecticut just outside New York City he had sold to move to Florida and buy a house outright as well as put his two children through college debt-free.
I have no idea whether all of this talk about money impressed his date, but it underscored for me that money wasn’t the reason he was not taking his cat to the vet. He really didn’t believe it was necessary for his cat to see the vet the way his dog did.
Cats Not Visiting the Vet is a Real Problem
This guy at the coffee shop wasn’t alone. Nationally, vets see 5 dogs for every cat, even though there are 85.8 million pet cats and 77.8 million pet dogs.
Cats aren’t getting the same level of care that dogs do. That isn’t fair!
A survey found that the older cats are, the less likely they are to go to the vet unless they seem to be sick. It sounds like they talked to more people who shared the attitudes of the guy I met on the coffee shop patio.
This is worrisome, since cats are really good at hiding illness in its early stages. Less frequent vet visits as a cat reaches an age where ailments are actually more likely mean those issues will go undiscovered and untreated longer. Annual blood work can catch issues with a cat’s thyroid, liver, or kidneys before they have done silent, irreversible damage.
What’s keeping cats from vet visits?
Most people think their cat hates going to the vet, and they’re probably right. In fact, 38% of cat guardians get stressed just thinking about taking their cat to the vet. No wonder cats aren’t getting to the vet more often!
There are simple things you can do to make the whole situation less stressful on your cat as well as yourself. For instance, if kitty hides when you bring her carrier out of storage, there’s a way to make this easier on everyone.
A carrier that only shows up when it’s time to go to the vet is frightening, but a carrier that is part of the usual living room landscape and serves as a place to nap on a regular basis isn’t scary at all. Any carrier can tuck under an end table and have a cozy blanket to make an everyday retreat for a cat so that it’s a familiar place when it’s time to go to the vet or anywhere else.
For high strung cats who are really afraid of the whole vet visit process, you can talk to your vet about giving your cat a dose of gabapentin at home before her appointment so help relieve her anxiety. Vets have seen lots of reluctant cats, and they have helpful suggestions for many situations.
What about the guy who took his dog to the vet but not his cat?
I wish I could say that the guy at the coffee shop had an epiphany and realized he needed to take his senior cat to the vet for the first time since kittenhood. But the truth is, once his date showed up, he only had eyes for her, so I don’t know how that story ended.
I like to think that maybe he’ll take his cat to the vet a little sooner than he would have otherwise after our conversation. I hope I made a difference for his cat, who deserves vet care just as much as his dog does.
Research and further reading:
Banfield, 2016 State of Pet Health Report
American Pet Products Association 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey
Royal Canin Survey of Cat and Dog Owners
Catalyst Council, Stats on Cats