USA: Cat Population Increases While Visits to Veterinarians Decrease

Summary: cat owners don’t take their cat to the vet enough and vets could do more to encourage them to do so.

veterinary clinic

Apparently, feline visits to veterinarians decreased by 14% between 2001 and 2011, while at the same time the domestic cat population increased by about 5%.

This rather upsetting information for the vet in (terms of business) and cats in terms of potential health problems is based upon two concurring studies:

  1. 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook
  2. The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III: Feline Findings (“Bayer Feline Findings Study”)

We already know, from readily available statistics, that people take their cat to the veterinarian less often than people take their dog to the veterinarian. This in itself is a rather peculiar state of affairs but it is a long-standing situation and people seem to accept it. We don’t quite know why this is the case. It may simply be that the cat is less demonstrative and less needy and more independent and that people are less aware of a cat’s health requirements at any one time.

The Problem

It is all about a cat obtaining regular veterinary care. Clearly, a lot of domestic cats are not getting it. The second study referred to found that more than half of America’s domestic cats do not receive regular veterinary care.

For me, the first question that enters my head is: do cats require regular veterinary care? The veterinarians will say yes and so will businesses who are associated with veterinary clinics. However, a thoughtful and good cat caretaker should be able to decide if and when their cat requires a visit to the vet. Also, one of those typical annual visits to the vet is for vaccinations and it is now common knowledge that a lot of the vaccinations that cats receive are unnecessary and indeed some of them may injure the cat.

So with respect to the example of vaccinations you could argue that a regular veterinary visit is unwarranted. However, many people who own cats are not necessarily really good caretakers and their reason for not regularly visiting veterinarian is not because they have assessed their cat as being healthy but because they’ve neglected their domestic cat’s health.

I hate to say it but there is a certain amount of ignorance about domestic cat maintenance. In the USA, most domestic cats (69%) are adopted at no cost and some people need some form instructions in order to know how to care for their cat. They don’t have the knowledge. About 37% of cat owners didn’t even think that their veterinarians recommend annual checkups while 81% believed that there companion cat was in good health.

The classic reason why a cat owner does not wish to take their cat to the vet is because there cat doesn’t like going to the vet. Almost 60% of cat owners said that their cats hate going to the vet. The other pet hates are travelling in a car and being put into a carrier. When a cat owner’s cat is stressed the owner is stressed and therefore the owner avoids the stress by not going to the veterinarian. It’s is that simple.

Once a cat owner has decided to take her cat to the veterinarian additional, problems are encountered at the clinic. Apparently more than 50% of cat owners are not completely satisfied with the waiting rooms at clinics. One of the reasons for this is that cats are placed into close proximity with dogs and cat owners don’t like it and nor do the cats (sometimes).

Only 18% of veterinary practices have cat-only waiting areas in which the cat is separated physically from the dog. Also, only about two thirds of veterinary clinics have trained their staff to make their customer’s experience more pleasant while only 11% have cat-only days or appointment sessions.

We all know the other barrier to taking a domestic cat to the vet: the cost of the visit. Value for money was a problem with 59% of cat owners. Owners of domestic cats sometimes are unaware of how a visit to the veterinarian can improve the quality of life for their cat. The study apparently suggests that veterinarians should consider educating their clients on the benefits of visiting their clinic. Some customers have difficulty understanding what the veterinarian is doing which in turn makes them resistant to understanding value for money.

relationship with veterinarian

Recommendations

The Bayer Feline Findings Study made recommendations on how to influence pet owners to visit veterinary clinics more frequently and routinely.

Cat owners are very likely to take their new domestic cat to a veterinarian (83% do). As a result, this is a good time for a veterinarian, from a business standpoint, to educate the cat owner and to emphasise the benefits of routine checkups. Note that this is a business opportunity. Clearly there are benefits for a cat owner to take their cat to a veterinarian routinely but conversely there is a need for veterinarian to not overdo the visits to the cat’s detriment.

Another recommendation was that clinic should reduce the stress to cats and owners. Veterinarians can do more, it seems, to make the environment in their clinics less stressful for the domestic cat. As to getting to the clinic, I’m not sure a vet can do much except provide good advice on how to minimize stress.

One recommendation was that veterinarians should provide a written report to the customer and provide easy access to members of staff should the customer require advice. Communicating could be via any of the modern methods namely e-mail or text messages.

The final recommendation was that vets should “provide bundled preventative care plans”. This will include discounts. Let’s hope the “bundled plans” to not include declawing.

I have to mention declawing because this is an easy way to generate income whereas the other methods above require more consideration and I would hope that veterinarians will take the advice to improve income in a humane manner.

Source: as stated in the article and digitaljournal.com

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Comments

USA: Cat Population Increases While Visits to Veterinarians Decrease — 6 Comments

  1. well i cant speak for everyone but its expensive got to the vet and unless you got some kind of account where u can pay things off like i can at my vet. It can be hard esp when u got more than one cat. Vaccinations are expensive. cant believe what i just saw ozzie and jasmin are play fighting so cute. anyway i do agree its good to take cat to vet at least once a year or when the animal in pain and cant do anything.

  2. I took my cat Gigi in Canada to the horrible toronto evil so called ‘humane’ society – to get operated. After that I took her to the vet once when she had an abcess on her throat – that popped – and they stitched her up and I removed the stitches my self – and never took her to the vet again, ever.. Now she is old and sick she is going every year.

    Young cats don’t need to go to the vet uless there is a problem.

    The key here is Knowing when there is a problem.

    I would suggest most people don’t truly know what to look out for and therefore they should take their cats to the vet once ayear. If you don’t do this then you should be extremely alert for anything that might be wrong ad never take chances.

    • If a cat caretaker is knowledgeable then they can take their cat to the vet whenever the cat needs to go to the vet but if a cat owner lacks knowledge and awareness than he or she should take their cat to the vet routinely, which is the point I believe you are making. Of course vets will try and drum up business and encourage regular visits. This is unnecessary but I sense that there are not enough visitors to the veterinarian by cat owners in general.

  3. I think that people find that cats are easier to ignore than dogs. Cats cope better with whatever’s wrong whereas a dog will probably limp and whimper which can’t be ignored. I think dogs are thought to be more important and as such worth more consideration.

  4. More and more the hammer is coming down on cat people to keep their cats indoors fulltime.
    I think that having fulltime indoor cats is a major reason for a decline in vet visits.
    Those cats aren’t likely to sustain injuries to the extent outdoor ones are, and many people don’t feel the need to comply with getting their cats vaccinated even though it’s the law.

    • I think you make a good point. If the percentage of full-time indoor cats is actually increasing and I don’t know if we have any hard statistics on that, then that would explain a gradual reduction in the number of veterinary visits. You know what, it may be that less veterinary visits is good for the cat because we realise that veterinarians want cat owners to bring their cat to the clinic and sometimes it is unnecessary and all surgery or interventions of any sort can have some sort of detrimental health consequences.

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