Cats make wonderful pets. In fact, cat loyalty was recently illustrated when a family pet named Tara sprinted to save a child from a dog attack. No wonder more than 86 million households have at least one resident feline.

But the independent and self-sufficient characteristics of cats lull some owners’ into thinking they don’t need the regular pet wellness visits canine counterparts receive. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), almost twice as many cats than dogs never visit the veterinarian. Eighty three percent of cats are taken to the veterinarian in the first year of ownership, yet over half of them don’t return for yearly check-ups.

“By visiting the veterinarian each year, we may be able to diagnose or care for a condition in the beginning stages so it can be treated early." 

Checking in

“Yearly checkups provide opportunities to evaluate a pet’s overall health, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental needs and behavior. Cats don’t always display signs of sickness, so a trip to the veterinarian could spot potential dangers,” states Heather O’Steen, Executive Director of AAFP, a professional organization representing feline practitioners Myriad health issues can affect cats including everything from diabetes, arthritis, and chronic renal disease.

“By visiting the veterinarian each year, they may be able to diagnose or care for a condition in the beginning stages so it can be treated early,” advises Ms. O'Steen. Cats are adept at hiding signs of sickness or pain so the eye of a professional is instrumental in evaluation and diagnoses, she explains.

Finding a cat-friendly practice

Since cats have different needs than other pets, visiting a cat friendly practice helps ensure specific steps are taken to understand their unique disposition. Anyone who’s tried to load a cat into a carrier knows the stress that ensues. It’s no surprise that the AAFP reports research shows that 60 percent of cat owners report their pet “hates” to visit the veterinarian. That results in almost 40 percent of owners saying they get stressed just “thinking about” taking their cat for a visit.

“We recommend keeping the carrier out at all times so cats become comfortable with it and don’t only associate it with a trip to the vet,” says Dr. Marcus Brown, AAFP President.

"Yearly checkups provide opportunities to evaluate a pet’s overall health, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental needs and behavior."

Veterinarians who speak cat

Another suggestion is to consider a feline-friendly practice that understands how to reduce the tension associated with the visit. These veterinary practices provide a calming environment for felines including everything from cat only waiting and examination rooms to a cat ddvocate on staff.

Another suggestion is to consider a feline-friendly practice that understands how to reduce the tension associated with the visit. These veterinary practices provide a calming environment for felines including everything from cat only waiting and examination rooms to a Cat Advocate on staff.

Important to keep in mind is that cats age more rapidly than humans; another reason for annual visits. A 2-year-old cat is equivalent to 24 human years; a 5-year-old feline is equivalent to 36 years; a 15-year old cat is compared to a 76-year-old human. Despite this fact, studies reveal older cats are taken to the veterinarian less often than younger cats. Also, indoor cat owners are less likely to place a priority on care than owners of outdoor cats.

Help your cat remain healthy and age gracefully with standing wellness checkups.  As Tara the cat proved, your cat would do it for you.