Any veterinarian can tell you that cats are not just small dogs - a tribute to their distinctive physical, behavioral and emotional makeup.
But has their unique, arrogant and aloof nature always served cats well? Have they received the husbandry and medical care they deserve? Have they benefited as much as dogs from societal changes and medical advances? Has the cat crossed the same bridge that leads to quality of care concerns and best practices?
Until relatively recently, cats were relegated to a secondary status as pets. Our understanding of nutritional needs, disease complexes and preventive care in cats lagged behind what we knew about dogs. Fortunately, this has changed a great deal as cats have been increasingly incorporated into the family structure.
Organizations such as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and its members are primarily if not uniquely dedicated to cat health care. The veterinary profession in general is becoming better educated about the special needs of cats and their owners. We all want to provide the best care we can: the best service, the best medical care and the best wellness care.
Unfortunately, cats are still less likely to receive veterinary health care compared with dogs. Only about one quarter of the patients treated at small animal veterinary clinics are cats. Why?
Several challenges that prohibit feline health care include poor cat behavior, decreased human animal bond with cats compared to dogs, stressful veterinary visits and owner difficulty recognizing signs of disease. That is why Fort Dodge Animal Health, in conjunction with the AAFP, has introduced the program Healthy Cats for Life. The initiative's Web site, www.catwellness.org (which is currently undergoing revisions) provides education resources about feline care, including behavior and explains the importance of wellness examinations.
A new veterinary clinic called The Cat Care Center is opening in Ocean Springs, Miss., in early January. This is the first exclusive cat-only veterinary clinic (sorry, no dogs allowed) on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The writer of this column will be managing this clinic. Two other veterinarians who contribute to this column, Dr. Michael Dill and Dr. Chris Duke, own the practice.
The clinic will cater to the unique needs of cats by providing a lower stress environment free of dog odors or barking. Through prevention of both medical and behavioral problems, early detection and treatment, we will strive to provide the best care possible to allow for a long and loving relationship between you and your cat.