Veterinarians Alarmed by Declining Number of Cat Patients

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Veterinarians across the United States are reporting an alarming decrease in the number of cats and cat owners visiting veterinary facilities for routine care, according to The Morning Call.

Veterinarian listening to cat's heartbeat with stethoscopeCollection:  Digital VisionCredit:  Andy SotiriouRelease informati

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Bethany Bankovich, a manager at Allentown Animal Clinic in Pennsylvania, noticed a drastic difference in the number of cat visits versus the number of dog visits using the clinic's services.

"Cats are the No. 1 household pet in the U.S. However, only 25-30 percent of patients we see on a monthly basis are felines, whereas about 65-70 percent of patients are canines," Bankovich said.

The gap between cats' and dogs' veterinarian visits can also be found on a national scale. The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of households that made no trips at all to the vet increased by 8 percent for dog owners and 24 percent for cat owners.

Many cat owners believe that their cat does not need the same routine care that dogs do, because they care for themselves. This idea stems from the overall belief that cats are independent and aloof creatures, as explained by Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council.

"There's this 'cats can take care of themselves' idea. The popular media would like people to believe that. Just because they groom themselves, that doesn't mean they don't benefit from a brush," Brunt said.

Various owners also cite the problem of transportation as reason enough to not take their cats to the vet. Brunt explained the phenomenon as the "carrier-barrier" when cats fight tooth and nail to avoid going into a cat carrier. Their hatred of this method of transportation is often a strong deterrent to owners.

Yet the most common reason that most owners avoid trips to the vet is a simple one: finances. Veterinarians noticed a decline in the number of feline patients as a result of the recession. Some cat owners simply cannot afford expensive vet bills.

"With the recession and money going to rent or mortgage, food, etc., many people do not have the money to bring their pets in," said Dr. Michelle Paul of the Allentown Cat Clinic.

Veterinarians are frustrated by the infrequent visits from cats and their owners. Many common diseases could be prevented or diagnosed at an earlier stage if vets were able to perform routine examinations. Quakertown, Pa., veterinarian Dr. Renee Ziegler said that, too often, cat owners seek veterinary treatment only after it is too late for simple preventive care that would have made a difference.

"You've lost your window to help that cat, and it's become a more expensive problem," said Ziegler.

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If they are so worried about the cats, maybe they should have free clinics every month or so for the cat owners who cannot afford the fees, or maybe have a sliding scale for the lower income owners.

February 03 2014 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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