Choosing Your Vet
The AVMA, American Veterinary Association web site is a good place to check off what to look for when choosing a vet for your cat.
Consider your needs and your cat's as well as your budget, your comfort and that of your cats. Some veterinarians now specialize in feline medicine, however this is not absolutely necessary and may not be available within easy reach of your home. If you work long hours a vet who is open at night might be best for your needs. Consider distance from home, as well as the emergency services they offer as well as the availability of after hours service. Many vet hospitals have begun using a centralized specializes emergency hospital and don't have evening or weekend hours. If this is their arrangement then they most likely will not have staff on call at night or staff at their facility to tend to your cat if they need to be confined there overnight. If you choose this type of arrangement make sure you also visit the emergency facility to acquaint yourself with the location and services there.
The relationship with your vet will be very important in keeping your cat in the best of health for as long as he lives. Get to know your vet. If you are choosing a new vet you can ask friends who they use and ask them to share some of the reasons they like this vet.
If you are moving to a new area and don't know anyone yet, you can check the listings on the AAHA site. http://www. healthypet.com/ You can then go and visit the hospitals that are close to you. Ask to speak to one of the vets, and when you feel comfortable make an appointment to get acquainted so that if you need the vet he will be familiar with you and your cat. This trial visit will establish a record for your cat, and you can also have your former vet transfer your cat's history to this new vet. This way, should you have an emergency you will be prepared.
In the event that you have been advised that your cat should have a procedure performed and you are uncertain as to what to do there are several avenues you can take in making your decision.
Obviously, if time is critical, you may have no choice but to rely on your own vet for advice. If you have time you can either, Ask your vet if there is a specialist who you might go to for a second opinion. If this is a complicated procedure and may require that lab work be sent out. Ask if you might be better off going to a full service teaching hospital where there will be veterinary specialists in all fields of veterinary medicine to deal with the unexpected. You can also do some web searching on the condition and or treatments and then ask your vet any questions that didn't occur to you at first.
Remember that you owe it to your cat and to yourself to be sure of your choices of treatment. Your comfort and convenience are important too. If your own vet can whatever is necessary then your cat will be more comfortable in familiar surroundings, but if not, your ultimate decision will be for the best outcome medically. This may mean traveling some distance every day to visit your cat.
Specialized and emergency hospitals can be more costly, but remember that they may have more up to date equipment and 24 hour staff. However if you are located near any of the veterinary schools many have clinics and some fees may be less. It's worth exploring.
The Association of American Veterinary Colleges has a wonderful map at the bottom of their home page, which if you click on your state will give you the links to the vet schools in your area. .
From there you can contact them to see what programs they offer for your cat. Some also have learning clinics and fairs at certain times of year as well as lecture series that may be of interest to you.
Neuter and Spay
Other than the fact that no one wants to bring cats into the world that will not have safe forever homes there are many practical and health reasons to alter your cat. So PLEASE, alter your cat.
- Neutered cats are less likely to mark territory with urine. This marking behavior is done by BOTH males and females that are not altered.
- Un neutered cats are more prone to reproductive and other cancers
- Un neutered cats are more likely to try to force their way out of the house and may end up injured or worse, either in a cat fight over breeding rights, or in an encounter with a car.
- Most un neutered cats will howl and make some pretty scary noises when they are in season. This can go on for days on end, stop and begin again.
- Un neutered females are prone to pyometras, nasty and potentially fatal infections of the uterus and the lining that is never sloughed off. Female cats do not ovulate and therefore continue to build up a uterine lining which, if they are not bred can stay inside the uterus and become infected. These infections are serious and can be life threatening.
If you have purchased your cat from a reputable breeder you will more than likely have signed a contract where you agree to alter your cat. This is both a legal and moral obligation. The same holds true for a cat that you have adopted from a shelter or pound where you are more than likely bound by a contract to alter your cat.
The Trip to the Vet
When you first bring your cat home, it's a good idea to leave the carrier accessible so that he can use it as a hiding place. The carrier then becomes a safe haven and he will not be afraid of it when he has to go to the vet. Most hard carriers have removable doors so that you can convert it to a cave for him. Put his blanket and a toy in there and he will then use it when he wants to hide.
Some cats don't like cars, others don't mind. I find that most are fine once I'm on an open road where I make few turns and stops. In any event no doubt your cat will 'talk' to you from his carrier. Talk to him, comfort him and assure him that he will be safe and that you are there. I sometimes meow back at them in the same tone, and they then talk back to me. After a while, if we're in the car that long, they calm down.
Some cats however are so bothered by this that they need some sedation just to go to the vet. I would try to avoid this if possible as it makes an accurate assessment of your cat much more difficult. It's better to work with your cat at getting used to his carrier and try to calm him down. Chances are, once he's at the vet's he will calm down. Even vets tell me that cats who can't be handled at home are more agreeable in the hands of the vet.
Perhaps it's like the child who misbehaves at home, but is an angel in everyone else's house.
I have had people tell me that their cats hate the car, but I then find out that they only drive five miles to the vet, all on crowded city streets. Chances are that if you took the same cat 100 miles away on a trip, after a few minutes or when you got onto open highways he'd quiet down. If nothing else, he's tire out and go to sleep.
What to Tell the Vet
Whenever you visit your vet it is up to you to give your vet as much information about your cats recent behavior as possible. Remember, in most cases your vet has not been in your home, does not know what routine you follow. Subtle changes in behavior may be critical to the correct and rapid diagnosis of your cat. If there is something strange or peculiar looking, such as vomit, or stool, bring some with you. This is going to sound a little strange, but if you can't bring it, take a digital photo, use your cell phone if you have a photo phone. The more the vet can see what you have seen the better his diagnosis will be. The details may even save you and your cat from an unnecessary test or procedure.
In the case of a sick cat it is not cruel to isolate him. He will likely want to be left alone to some extent and find comfort in having his needs met in a more quiet and closed area. This way he can rest and you can observe his behavior without any intrusions. Many cats will isolate themselves when they are not feeling well. This way you are doing it for them, only you can then observe their activity more clearly. It is also easier to medicate a cat when you don't have to find him first.
Pet insurance is relatively recent product. There are a couple of large companies. Most companies offer two types of plans. They usually offer a basic plan and an extended plan. These companies are rated and it would be wise to do your research, and compare the plans. Some of the plans are offered by companies that own their own veterinary hospitals and the treatments that are covered may have to be obtained through those hospitals and vets in order to pay a claim.
If (and we hope they will be) your cats will be house indoors only, the newer protocols for vaccinations don't require annual vaccinations, however most plans cover these. So that will be something you will not use. If your cat is already neutered and the plan covers that, you won't be using that service either. If your cat is an indoor cat, an annual trip to the vet is probably all you may need at least for the first couple of years. You may decide to wait two or three years to take out a plan. As your cat gets older he may be more likely to need the more complex test and procedures that may be covered.
Sadly, many cats do get some form of cancer or kidney disease. There are more modern testing and treatment techniques available today than there used to be so the veterinary cost for these can be quite high, and you don't want to be in a position of not being able to provide for your cat should you need to. Remember that indoor cats stay healthier for longer periods and therefore whether you have insurance or not you and your cat will be in better shape
Some large corporations and business associations offer discounts on pet insurance at discounted rates. So check with your company's human resource department or your professional associations to see if this is available to you.
If you choose to wait, just remember that once your pet is sick it may not be possible to take out a policy that will cover the bills.