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.
See Also: 10 Common Cat Behavior Myths Decoded
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.Why Cats Need Kid Glove Treatment at the Vet's Office
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.
See Also: 5 Secrets to Supremely Happy Indoor Cats
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.
But we still have a long way to go health care-wise, which is why you need to pay attention to certain details to improve your cat's veterinary experience:
1. The noise factor. Is your animal clinic of choice super loud? Hospitals that offer boarding can be especially noisy - and a high volume of patients is typically not a factor in your cat's favor.
2. Separate but equal. Is there a dog-free zone for you to wait with your cat, as well as a separate feline ward?
3. Sensitivity to feline needs. Your vet's explanations may include details about your cat's reaction to certain stimuli, indicating a kitty-centric outlook. Your vet may not even want to hospitalize your cat or perform a procedure on that day because of a barker in the back.
4. In-room procedures. Blood draws and other restraint-requiring procedures are often best performed in the exam room, so there's minimal stressful translocation of the freaked-out feline.
5. Low-stress handling. Does your vet have a light touch? Do her technicians? Scruffing (grasping by the loose skin at the nape of the neck), in particular, can be extra stressful for some cats. A hospital that handles each cat like an individual - softer holds for cats who clearly need it - is an especially desirable trait.
See More on vetstreet.com: