Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Why 'Take Your Cat to the Vet' Week Is Worth Celebrating

Pet Column for the week of August 22, 2011

Related information:

Related site - University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital
Related site - Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Debra Domal
Information Specialist

Fido has a bone to pick with Fluffy. He just learned that even though cats take the lead in the number of U.S. pets by 15 million, dogs are taken to the vet twice as often as cats, according to an estimate released by the CATalyst Council and the American Humane Association.

These numbers really got the fur flying. And they should.

Even though Fido may not relish all the poking and prodding while Fluffy snoozes at home, he is concerned that Fluffy isn't getting the care she needs. And so are a lot of others. That's why "Take Your Cat to the Vet Week" was created to draw attention to the need for regular feline wellness exams.

What causes this dramatic discrepancy in care? Dr. Kandi Norrell, primary care veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, explains that "Cats are generally stoic animals and are extremely good at hiding their pain."

Compounding this is the general perception that cats are more independent and self-sufficient than dogs, which often leads to the incorrect conclusion that they require less care and maintenance. Owners may also be reluctant because a visit to the veterinarian is likely to be especially stressful for cats.

"Cats boast a sense of hearing four times more sensitive than ours," notes Dr. Norrell. "Factor this in with their keen sense of smell and extreme sensitivity to movement, and it becomes easy to see why cats are susceptible to stress and anxiety."

Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, a veterinarian at the university's Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine with an interest in animal behavior, makes low-stress handling a priority for all patients. Dr. Ballantyne and the staff at Furnetic employ low-stress handling techniques to make the pet's visit "less scary" and to "increase safety for both pets and people."

Most experts agree that healthy adult cats should receive wellness exams at least once a year. However, cats' medical needs change significantly as they age. Dr. Tom Graves, director of the Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, recommends a senior wellness program for felines twelve years of age or older. This includes "a history and physical exam, and body weight and condition score every six months, along with annual screening tests and regular blood pressure measurement."

The main goal, according to Dr. Graves, is to "identify and treat diseases early in order to extend life and enhance quality of life."

With regular wellness exams, obesity and dental disease—two key concerns for cats, and especially for senior cats—can either be prevented or be treated before they become life-threatening.

So if you share your home with a multi-species family, call your veterinarian and make sure Fluffy gets her equal share of veterinary care. Fido will thank you.

The Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine and the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana both offer comprehensive wellness exams through their primary care services.