It may seem like dogs are America’s preferred pets. After all, they carry around the esteemed title of “man’s best friend.”
But all you have to do is take a look at the astounding popularity of cat videos to uncover the real story. Cats are where it’s at! In fact, it’s estimated that there are 74 to 96 million pet cats in the U.S., versus only 70 to 80 million dogs.
Yet, despite their broad appeal, cats visit the vet far less often than dogs do. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that dogs see their veterinarian 1.5 times a year, while cats average less than once a year.
So what’s the scoop? Why do our feline friends get the short end of the stick when it comes to their health? Much of it has to do with stubborn myths and misconceptions that continue to surround them.
Myth #1: Cats are self-sufficient.
One of the reasons many people adore cats is how independent they are, especially compared with dogs. No need to take them for a daily walk or play fetch for hours on end. But that doesn’t mean that cats don’t need our help from time to time, especially when it comes to their health. No matter how independent they are, they haven’t mastered the ability to make a vet appointment yet. (Not that they would if they could.)
Myth #2: They only need to go if they get sick or injured.
Common feline diseases like hyperthyroidism and diabetes can develop slowly over time. And it may be months or even longer before visible symptoms are severe enough to demand medical attention. Annual wellness checkups allow your vet to track changes in your cat’s appearance, behavior and health from year to year. This gives you and your veterinary team the opportunity to catch and proactively address small issues before they become big problems.
Myth #3: I’ll be able to tell if my cat is sick.
Because cats haven’t been domesticated as long as dogs have, their wild instincts are still alive and well. In the wild, cats are both predator and prey. And when you’re prey, it’s a really good idea to not let on if you’re not in tip-top shape. That’s why Kitty is such an expert at hiding her symptoms. Often, the only signs may be non-specific like occasionally missing the litter box or sleeping in a new spot. Veterinarians are trained to ask the right questions and identify telltale signs of illness that may not be readily visible to owners.
Myth #4: Indoor-only cats don’t need to go to the vet.
It’s true that indoor cats live healthier, longer lives than their outdoor counterparts. In fact, statistics show that indoor cats live two to three times as long as those who are allowed outside! But that doesn’t mean they can avoid the vet. They can still get common kitty health issues like kidney failure, urinary tract infections and diabetes. And living in a house doesn’t always protect them from parasites like fleas, ticks, tapeworms and heartworms. When it comes to vaccinations, speak to your veterinarian about what’s necessary and what’s not.
Myth #5: It’s not worth it because my cat hates it so much.
I don’t have any statistics on this, but my guess is that there are approximately two people in the U.S. who actually enjoy taking their cat to the vet. As a cat parent myself, I totally understand how stressful it can be for everyone involved. However, there are things you can do to make the experience more pleasant, as I’ve previously discussed on my blog. And I always try to put it in perspective. An hour or two of stress once a year is totally worth it to make sure my kitties Olivia and Turdie are healthy and happy the other 364 days.
By the way, February is “National Cat Health Month,” which means it’s the “purr-fect” opportunity to pull out the carrier and take you favorite feline friend to the vet. So go ahead. Pick up the phone and make that appointment!