Cats are Beachers, too

It’s no secret that the Beach is a popular neighbourhood for dog owners, both to live and visit. The reasons for this are obvious, I can think of no better life in this city for a dog than one in this great community. What might surprise many is that in my practice the number of feline and canine patients is almost equal, and other vets in the area I have spoken to agree it’s more or less the same for them. It turns out that we are equally fond of our cats here, but of course many cats maintain a much lower profile.

Cats are very different creatures than dogs in a number of ways. One of the most significant is in their social interactions. Dogs, as many know, are pack animals; they want to be part of a group. Cats, on the other hand, are solitary by nature. That’s not to say they can’t thrive with company and bond with other animals, but they need their space. Cats want things on their own terms, generally preferring their lives to be predictable. They are creatures of habit that often do not like change.

Understanding the needs of cats is key to maintaining their physical and mental health. I see many cats whose issues could be caused as much by their mental state as their physical one, and often the problem is a combination of the two. Not being able to take my feline patients from the exam table to the couch and ask them “What’s on your mind?” can make getting to the bottom of these issues tricky and frustrating for everyone involved. Excessive grooming, inappropriate elimination, vocalizing for no apparent reason, the list goes on – any of these issues could have a purely physical explanation, but just as many are brought about by stress.

So what “stresses” a cat? While each case is different, the first thing we look for is change in routine or environment. A new pet (new research suggests cats are more stressed out by the addition of a new cat than by the addition of a new dog!), moving, a new baby – these are among the obvious ones. Some cats are so sensitive it could be as simple as a new type of litter or even rearranged furniture.

Another way stress affects the overall health of our feline companions is the often significant experience of a visit to the vet.

Even though we have an equal number of canine and feline patients, we do not get to see them equally at all. A major reason for this – and it is very understandable – is the notable impact of being placed once a year into a carrier, then being driven to a strange place to be poked and prodded by a strange person. It can take some cats days to recover from even a simple routine checkup. If your cat falls into this group, talk to your vet about how to reduce the stress of their visit. There are many new strategies that we employ to make these visits much easier.

We recently launched our “Kew to You” feline house call service to help take the stress almost completely out of a visit to the vet. The feedback has been fantastic and we know these patients are much better off for it.

A fantastic resource currently available for cat owners looking to provide the best environment for their companion has come out of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: the indoor cat initiative. The website contains a wealth of information on how to make your home the best possible place for your cat to thrive. Read more at


Dr. Nigel Skinner is a veterinarian practicing in the Beach –

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