Coming to the Defense of Cats

Canine companions have a paw up on our feline friends when it comes to visits to the veterinarian, leaving cats shortchanged and in need of some tender loving care.

According to a Special Report appearing in the Feb. 15, 2008, edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats don't get the same affection – or medical attention – from their owners as dogs do.

Pet owners, the study found, generally have stronger bonds with their dogs than their cats, are likely to be more attached to dogs and thus more attentive to their needs. That's bad news for cats.

Study results show that pet owners took their dogs to the veterinarian for vaccinations, regular physical exams and preventive dental care more often than they took their cats.

Even cats sharing living quarters with the family dog are being overlooked. Cats from households with both dogs and cats were seen by veterinarians significantly less than dogs from the same household. One third of the cats from these households did not visit a veterinarian annually, compared with only 13 percent of dogs in the same household.

Why the slight? There are many reasons, according to the study.

The strength of the owner-pet bond relates in part to the amount of time a pet spends with its owners. While dogs spent about 45 hours a week with their owners, cats only spent about 32 hours a week.

Dogs, the study says, are also seen as more affectionate than cats, and they are considered more fun to be around. Many owners thought their dogs were in need of more routine examinations because they are outside more often than cats. Cat owners were also under the misconception that cats "do not get sick and . . . can take care of themselves."

Overall, the message is clear – and equally worrisome.

Cats are substantially underserved medically, which presents problems not only in terms of their health, but in terms of public health.

To view the report, go to http://avmajournals.avma.org/toc/javma/232/4.




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