|Stop the decline: Experts hope that education, advocacy can reverse a downward trend in feline veterinary visits.|
Cats are the most popular modern pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) latest “U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook.”But even though they outnumber dogs in homes, it’s a different story when it comes to veterinary care.
More than 81 million households own cats, compared to 72.1 million dogs, according to the sourcebook, yet cats see veterinarians half as often as dogs. Onethird of cats never see a veterinarian at all, and even kittens are missing out on basic care.
This news comes at a time when overall veterinary expenditures are slowing and pet owners are seeking veterinary care less frequently:Dog veterinary visits slipped to 1.5 times a year from 2001 to 2006, but cats saw veterinarians even less, averaging only .07 visits per year.
The veterinary profession is taking steps to fix the inequity, and students can help.
In February 2008, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) convened a landmark CATalyst Summit to determine what could be done to improve the health and well-being of cats. Fifty participants representing veterinary practices, associations,humane societies, shelters, industry and the media explored feline issues and looked for ways to make the future a better place for cats. They identified lack of awareness of cat health care needs and the mistaken belief that cats are self-sufficient and require little care as two major factors that would need to be addressed to encourage responsible pet ownership and feline veterinary care.
The CATalyst group encourages everyone in the profession to create a grassroots surge to lift feline health care.These are some of the ways veterinary students can get involved:
Be an advocate
One final note: Shelter studies cite inappropriate feline urination as the No. 1 behavior problem that leads to cat relinquishments. Too often, this can be a death sentence for these cats,once they’re classified as behavior problems and considered unfit for adoption.
Coincidentally, information from the pet insurance industry says that feline urinary tract infections are the No. 1 health insurance claim for cats. Together, these facts suggest that while many cats suffer from feline lower urinary tract disease and might receive treatment, treating their illness alone might not be sufficient to save the cat. Behavioral problems need be addressed as well.
Students have the ability to advance positive change for cats. Learn as much as you can about feline behavior so you can counsel cat owners. Of course, you will be saving lives. Prepare to be a cat advocate in practice and ensure a brighter future or yourself, your clients and especially the cats.