The number of households owning pets in North America has been steadily decreasing, and more importantly people have moved from large dogs to small dogs and cats. Presently in Canada cats outnumber dogs: 7.9 million cats to 5.9 million dogs. Cat owners often own more than one cat at a time.
For many decades I was exclusively a dog owner. During that time I used to think that cats were not equal to dogs as pets. Then I became a cat owner as well, and after living with feline companions for many years now, I know that cats are not equal; rather they are completely different and unique, and cannot be compared.
Dogs live for their owner and are slaves to his wishes; cats live for themselves and allow you into their lives when it suits them. I do not mean this in any derogatory way; it’s just that cats are not small dogs. Both cats and dogs became domesticated by man not so long ago – about 15,000 years ago. Whereas wild dogs live in packs and hunt together, most wild cats live solitarily (with the exception of lions). In the domestic cat only mother daughter individuals stay together, males move away and only come back to reproduce. It is true that domestication in cats has modified somewhat their behavior. Domestic cats need shelter and food, and they need socialization and interaction, but they do need their solitary times as well. They are not as emotionally dependant as dogs are on their owners. It is probably because of this instinctive “individualistic” trait that cats are excellent actors; they hide their emotions very well. Cats remain extremely cautious and suspicious; this characteristic has let a small predator like a cat survive extinction. Evolution taught cats to hide weakness or become prey. From here probably comes the common harmful misconception that cats are so independent they do not need to go to see the doctor because they take care of themselves.
Although the number of cats in North America is increasing, the number of cat visits to the doctor is decreasing. This is an alarming statistic, because it means that cats do not get the medical care they deserve. Furthermore if you have ever taken your cat to the vet before, you know that it is not an experience both of you cherish. Cats in general hate traveling, being locked up in a cage and being put onto a cold exam table to be manhandled by a stranger.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners wants to teach both veterinarians and cat owners about proper cat care and how to do it in ways that would be the least traumatic for the little felines. Veterinarians and behaviorists came up with guidelines and ideas on how to improve cat care. Veterinary hospitals that comply with these new rules can become a “Cat Friendly Practice” (CFP).
A CFP does many things to decrease the stress your furry friend can experience during a visit. Starting from house-calls to avoid all travel, to separate waiting and exam rooms in order not to smell or hear dogs or even other cats. Gentle handling techniques, pheromones that naturally decrease stress and examination techniques more adapted to this gentler species.
So keep in mind that cats are not small dogs, they hide their emotions and symptoms very, very well and they do deserve to see the vet at least once or twice a year depending on their age. A Cat Friendly Practice is a good way to start.
Today there are only 12 clinics out of almost 800 in Quebec that have attained “The Cat Friendly Practice” status and I am very proud to say that Animal 911 Veterinary Hospital has achieved the highest gold status distinction, so we can help your kitty stay healthy longer!