During Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, Encourage Adoption and Routine Veterinary Care
The veterinary community can encourage clients to adopt cats from shelters and at the same time educate them about the importance of regular veterinary care for their feline pets.
Every year, says the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals arrive at one of the community animal shelters nationwide. Of these, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats; every year, approximately 670,00 dogs and 860,000 cats are euthanized in shelters.
With pet ownership on the rise in the United States (the 2017-2018 edition of the Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, compiled by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), found that nearly 57 percent of all U.S. households owned a pet at year-end 2016), the veterinary community has an opportunity to encourage adopting pets from shelters.
Approximately 38 percent of households nationwide owned one or more dogs — the highest estimated rate of dog ownership since the AVMA began measuring it in 1982. Cats were the next most popular pet, found in 25 percent of U.S. households.
But the data related to veterinary care in 2016 was more divergent, with 82.8 percent of dog-owning households and 54.3 percent of cat-owning households making at least one visit to the veterinarian.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), 83% of cat owners bring their cat to a veterinarian before its first birthday, but over 50% don’t return until an obvious health problem arises much later in life. How can you encourage cat owners to seek regular veterinary care? Here are 10 tips:
1) Work with your local animal shelter. Give the shelter coupons or flyers advertising free or discounted first exams to distribute to pet owners who bring in their kittens or cats within the first week of the adoption.
2) Stress that preventive care is better than reactive care. At the very first visit, provide a schedule of routine vaccinations and checkups and stress the importance of compliance for things like flea prevention medications.
3) Educate owners about cats and illness. Explain how cats often “hide” sickness and pain and how routine visits can help detect conditions that may be affecting the cat’s long-term health.
4) Discuss potential behavioral changes. Explain that as a cat ages, the veterinary team can help assess any behavior changes and how they may be related to the cat’s health.
5) Discuss feline obesity. You know that a cat that is overweight is at risk for several illnesses and conditions. Make sure the owner understands that with routine visits, you can help them keep their cat at an ideal weight.
6) Offer tips for transporting a balky cat. Many cats fight against being placed in a carrier. Make sure you provide tips to a new cat owner on how to acclimate their kitten or cat to its carrier.
7) Set aside sufficient time for the first visit. Encourage the owner to ask questions and get to know your patient. Communicate positive things, such as “Muffin has pretty markings” or “Jeep is so affectionate.”
8) Demonstrate proper care techniques. For example, if the cat has a waxy buildup in its ears, explain how that can lead to an ear infection. Show them how to properly clean a cat’s ears.
9) Send newsletters, emails or text messages to cat owners. Cover feline behavior and health several times per year. Remind them of upcoming dates, such as annual vaccinations.
10) Schedule the next exam before the cat leaves. Like dental and hair appointments, scheduling exam appointments ahead of time helps encourage the owner to bring the pet back when scheduled.