Keeping cats (the #1 pet in America) healthy!

At PenBay Vets, we are serious about keeping cats healthy.  A big part of that is making veterinary care less stressful for both the cat and the pet owner.  The article below from the American Animal Health Association, PetsMatter Newsletter contains some great tips on how to provide a healthy life for your feline friend.  Did you know Maine is one of the States with the highest "cats-per-capita" in the US?  Even though that is true - we still see many more dogs than cats at our hospital.  That's why we strive for making our practice cat-friendly!  Remember, cats aren't as social as dogs - so they don't always "tell us" when things are wrong.  A preventive care exam by a veterinarian can add years to a cat's life, and save worry and money in the long-term.  Continue reading below to see how veterinarians and cat owners can work together to provide a healthy life for the #1 pet in America!


Written by Terri Johnson, CVT

Did you know that more people have cats as pets than dogs? And, did you know that cats are much less likely to be taken to the veterinarian than dogs? Preventing diseases in our pets and keeping them as healthy as possible is actually cheaper and healthier in the long run than treating disease. Taking your cat to your veterinarian regularly is important for preventing disease and helping them to stay happy and healthy.

Cats often seem quite independent.  And, even though they may appear to not need or want our help, they really do need it to be healthy and safe. AAHA-accredited veterinary practices incorporate individualized wellness and preventive care plans for cats based on lifestyle, age, and various other factors. These plans begin with your cat’s first visit to the veterinarian. While some preventive processes for different species (dogs and cats) will be similar, your cat has specific needs. And, preventive care for cats is a lifelong process, beginning with decisions made for them while they’re kittens. 

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) is helping many veterinary clinics become cat-friendly practices with tools to help decrease stress and provide a more calming environment for cats and their people. They’re promoting guidelines and programs that help veterinary practices create feline-only waiting areas and exam rooms, and they’re training staff members in feline-friendly handling techniques and teaching them how to better understand cat behavior.

Many people hesitate to take their cat to the veterinarian because it’s stressful for both the person and the cat. The process of taking your cat to the veterinarian begins as soon as you try to get her in the carrier. And, if your cat is outside, capturing her can be a challenge. Your veterinarian can help from the beginning with helpful instructions on how to get your cat used to both the carrier and the car. The AAFP provides guidelines to help you get your cat into and used to her carrier with less stress and hassle.

Cats who stay indoors live longer than those who are left unattended outdoors. The average life expectancy for cats who spend time outside is about 3 to 5 years, while it is 14 years or longer for cats housed solely inside. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, or an all-the-time outdoor cat, the following are some things to think about:

  • Outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed to and transmit diseases to each other. Did you know cats can get a disease referred to as feline AIDS (feline immunodeficiency virus [FIV])? It’s a fatal disease that is carried by up to 14 percent of the cat population. It’s not the same as human AIDS but it is very contagious.  Your veterinarian can vaccinate for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and FIV, but the best way to prevent those diseases is to keep your cat inside. Outdoor cats are also more likely to be exposed to contagious diseases such as FeLV, feline infectious peritonitis, and rabies.
  • Outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed to parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and worms. Cats allowed to go in and out can carry these parasites back into your home. Your veterinarian has treatments and medications to help prevent parasites from harming your cat and from getting inside your home.
  • Cats who go outside are exposed to things that can be transmitted to people, like toxoplasmosis, ringworm, and roundworms.
  • Outdoor cats are exposed to wildlife and free-roaming domestic animals, traffic accidents, pet theft, poison, mutilations, traps, animal abuse, and harsh weather (as well as the physical problems that go with it, such as frostbite or hypothermia).

If you are interested in transitioning your cat from an indoor/outdoor cat to an inside-only cat, it takes time, effort, and patience. But, in the long run, it’s one of the healthiest and best things you can do for your cat. The key is to create an indoor environment as interesting as the environment they experience outside. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offers several ideas and suggestions for making your cat’s indoor environment a fun and playful place to hang out.

Whether your cat lives inside all the time or spends some time outdoors, he can have a healthier, longer, and happier life if he visits his veterinarian routinely. Talk to your veterinary health care team about recommendations for how often your cat should visit the veterinarian and for ideas and options for making his visit less stressful. Your veterinarian can provide preventive health care choices and options for your cat’s specific needs and lifestyle.

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