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As my professors back in vet school often intoned, “cats are not small dogs.” In other words, Felis catus (formerly Felis domesticus) is a separate species, with its own unique needs.
Cats demand special considerations in lots of areas, and I'm not just talking about differences in anatomy and physiology.
Unfortunately, not all companion animal hospitals concede to all their diverse needs, particularly when it comes to what cats care about most: things that stress them out.
Although I hate to admit it, some hospitals will systematically handle cats in the same way that they handle dogs — they restrain felines more roughly than cats feel comfortable with or they ignore some basic tenets of cat psychology.
For example, I’ve seen some vet staffers blithely place cat-occupied carriers alongside caged, barking dogs. Or they will hospitalize sick, stressed cats in full view of slathering canines. Can you imagine what that does to a cat’s psyche? It's no wonder that these kitties reveal more teeth and claws at future vet visits. These common practices also don’t bode well for a speedy recovery.
Then there’s this depressing reality: Veterinarians know that cat owners aren’t willing to spend as much as dog owners. The fact is that cats outnumber dogs as pets in the U.S. — yet they get taken to the vet less often.
Some veterinarians argue that it's hard to get deeply involved with a case when they know that a cat owner is more likely than a dog owner to decline a treatment plan, based on the fact that "she’s just a cat."
But I believe feline under-appreciation also happens because cats can be tougher to work with, requiring more patience — as do many of their owners, who tend to be slightly quirkier than the average dog owner.
Despite all of this talk of cat dissing, there’s lots of good news on the horizon.
For starters, cat-only hospitals can handle your every feline need in a highly specialized and super cat-friendly environment. Not only are feline practitioners, on average, more likely to be up-to-date on feline issues — like vaccine protocols and cat-specific approaches to medicine and handling — but the atmosphere is also typically more serene.
Of course, your area may not offer one of these fine facilities. Luckily, veterinarians are beginning to shift their second-class citizen attitudes toward cats. Recent efforts within the wider veterinary community geared toward increasing feline vet visits, and the emerging concept of “cat-friendly” hospitals, have started to improve the outlook for kitties.
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