The simple jingle of keys, and happy-go-lucky dogs race to the door, ready for a trip to Driftwood Animal Hospital. Reluctant dogs also will eventually comply, or be coerced with a tasty treat or a flash of their tennis ball.

Where does that leave the cat? The cat who saunters by as their owner readies to leave looks completely OK, with no real changes. Plus, taking them to the vet is hard, so it’s good that they seem exactly the same, day in and day out.

Or are they?

Your cat is complicated

The same way a high fashion model can carry off an avant garde design, cats can effortlessly pull off the impression of health and fitness. Webster’s dictionary defines impressions as “often indistinct or imprecise notions.” Do pet owners have the wrong impression of their feline’s physiology?    

That cats are masters at hiding pain and illness is well-known. According to a well-regarded study by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), 83% of cats visit the veterinarian during their first year, but then do not return until they show visible illness signs. These illnesses may have had better outcomes, and less expensive treatment options had they been detected early. 

So, why does the cat get left behind when the other family pets head to the veterinarian’s office for regular checkups? Here are five common impressions, and our suggestions on why they are not all correct.

#1: My cat hates going to the veterinarian

We cannot disagree with this one. Cats have long suffered from lack of understanding, including at the veterinary hospital. Thankfully, developments in the field of feline behavior and medicine have made practices more sensitive to cat needs, including low-stress handling techniques, alterations in hospital design (e.g., cat-only rooms, designated waiting areas), cat-savvy environmental enrichment, and improved feline medications and supplements. 

The cat carrier is another sensitive topic for both cat and owner that can abruptly end the conversation about going to the veterinarian. For crate-averse cats,  many improved crate and carrier styles are now on the market, and a brand new, different kind of transport can help retrain a cat to like their carrier. The process of forming a new, positive association can be slow, but the rewards are lifelong. Check out this unbeatable AAFP resourceCat Carrier Tips.

#2: My cat is not sick

Cats hide illness signs as a survival mechanism, because visible weakness would make them appear vulnerable to predators. This instinct is alive and well today. However, at an annual comprehensive physical exam, a veterinarian can pick up on early disease or illness indications, while treatment options are numerous and affordable. Waiting until a cat demonstrates classic signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea, can mean limited or no opportunity for a return to health.

A few subtle illness signs in cats can include slight changes in:

  • Behavior Sleeping more or less, playing less, or vocalizing
  • Feeding Eating and drinking more or less
  • Grooming — Taking care of themselves more or less
  • Personality  — Changing habits, such as suddenly urinating outside the box

#3: My cat never goes outside

While indoor-only cats may have less chance of viral disease transmission because they do not interact with stray or feral populations, they are still vulnerable to the same parasites, medical conditions, and natural aging conditions. Unfortunately, disease doesn’t stop at the front door.

#4: My cat is self-sufficient

Something about cats and their independent nature makes them seem low-maintenance, perhaps because they are constantly compared with dogs, who appear quite needy and reliant on their owners. However, cats may ask less from their owners in regard to social interaction, but their welfare and medical needs are much the same. 

#5: They’re only going to tell me she’s overweight

An estimated 60% of cats in the United States are overweight, according to the Association for Pet Obesity. That’s 56 million cats! While an overweight cat is certainly cause for concern, because obesity leads to an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, respiratory disease, and some cancers, an owner’s guilt and shame stands in the way of their pet’s return to health. Veterinarians can intervene when they see an overweight cat. After a physical exam, bloodwork, nutritional guidance, and discussion about the cat’s activity level, the veterinary team can develop an individualized, healthy, achievable weight loss plan. 

Learning to listen to your cat

Cats may not be as obvious about their needs as other house pets, and their natural solitary ways can leave owners feeling constant care is not required. Perhaps cats whose owners have attempted proactive care have not appreciated the gesture, leaving both parties frustrated and stressed. Regardless of your cat’s veterinary past, Driftwood Animal Hospital is here for them now. Contact us today, and let us bridge the gap between your cat and their regular veterinary visits.