Thursday, August 23, 2018

Taking Your Cat to the Vet

August 22 is recognized as Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. This doesn't mean that it's the only day to take your cat to the vet, but a reminder of the importance of taking your feline to the vet for wellness checks in addition to time when they are ill or injured.
Brulee with Dr. Keisler
Brulee being examined by Dr. Mary Keisler at Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital



The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) state that 83% of cats visit the veterinarian before their 1st birthday, but over 50% never return unless they are sick or in pain. With regular healthcare, your veterinarian can often detect conditions that may affect your cat’s long-term health.


Dr. Heyward Boyette, Cherokee Trail Veterinarian in Lexington,SC says
“People are far more likely to bring their dog than their cat to the veterinarian. Yet, cats benefit just as much from routine veterinary care as much as dogs do. If people have cats and they haven’t been to see the vet regularly, we’d love to see them because if they haven’t been to the vet in more than a year, they really need a checkup.” (July 31, 2018)
Regular wellness examinations allow vets to evaluate the overall health of your feline and help them identify any potential health issues before they become serious illnesses. The emotional well-being of a cat can play a major role in all aspects of her life and health and visiting a vet on a regular basis can contribute to meeting all needs of your feline. 

The bond between a caregiver and cat is very similar to other human relationships (Zielinski, 2011). Research has shown that cats can tune into the emotions of humans and may react to stress in the environment which can cause health problems with your cat (Muth, 2016). The connection between pets and humans extends beyond the caregiver to their veterinarian. It's important to find a veterinarian that is competent and caring about cats.


Choosing a Veterinarian

Dr. Heyward Boyette examining Brulee after her recent emergency hospital stay

How does one choose a vet for a feline? Most people tend to choose a vet by word of mouth from a family member or friend. This is an excellent resource for an initial search for the best veterinarian for your cat, but it's important to do some additional research prior to bringing your fur child into your home. 

Internet

When I got my first cat over 40 years ago, there was no such thing as the Internet for the average person. My family always chose veterinarians based on recommendations from friends. Internet access for the everyday person exploded in the 1990s and the information superhighway was born. Information was still limited and many veterinarians didn't have webpages at that time, so recommendations from individuals were still the main resource for finding a veterinarian. Sweet Praline came to live with me in 1995 when I became "single again." I had to make decisions on my own for the first time and began depending on the Internet for information as it became more and more available. When I moved back home in the 2000s and needed to find a new vet, I researched the Internet and found a "cats-only" veterinary practice. The disadvantage of this was the distance from my home and when Praline began getting sick during her senior years and ultimately developed cancer, the trip to the vet became more stressful for both Praline and me because of the distance and time it took to travel.

When I knew Truffle and Brulee were coming to live with me in 2011, I was able to do a detailed search of veterinary hospitals within 10 miles of my home. I had the advantage of seeing the locations on a map in relation to my home and read reviews from clients. I know there are always some negative reviews and I read those, but I wanted to see in more detail what people had to say about the veterinary practice. I narrowed down my choices to 3-4 veterinarians within a 5-mile radius of my home. 


Hospital Previsit

My next step was to contact the veterinary hospitals and arrange a pre visit to see the facilities and talk to the staff. Luckily, most of the hospitals had email addresses and phone numbers. I reached out to four different veterinarians, telling them I was bringing two new Persian kittens into my home within the month and wanted to check out their hospitals. Only one hospital responded to my request! This was surprising to me since so many people don't take their cats to the vet and one would think veterinarians would do what they could to encourage clients to bring their cats in. A on-site visit was arranged and I was introduced to the office manager and taken on a tour of the facilities. Most of the veterinarians were either in surgery that day or with patients, so I didn't have the opportunity to talk with them. I was impressed with the facilities, the services, the staff, and the accreditation of Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital.


Accreditation and Training

Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Having worked with accreditation of K-12 schools and university programs, I was aware of the stringent standards an organization must go through to obtain and maintain accreditation. The breeder where I got Truffle and Brulee was a vet tech and when I told her about the AAHA accreditation, she responded that it was an excellent hospital. She even went to their website and reviewed the hospital.

Cherokee Trail is also a Cat Friendly Practice® Gold member. The Cat Friendly Practice program was established by the American Association of  Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society for Feline Medicine (ISFM) and designed to elevate care for cats by reducing the stress for cats, their caregivers, and the entire veterinary team. Our vets now have separate examination rooms specifically for cats that include synthetic feline pheromone diffuser or spray, warming pads on the examination tables, and a location away from the noise and activities of the hospital. You can read more about Cat Friendly Practices here

Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital is in the process of having their veterinarians and staff certified in Fear Free training. Fear Freesm was created by Dr. Marty Becker (aka America's Veterinarian) in 2016. Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners to provide education on the emotional well-being, enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.

I'm very lucky my cats are treated by veterinarians who've improved their practice through the above accreditations and trainings. I do want to stress that even if you don't have a vet near you with these attributes that you still need to take your cat to the vet on a regular basis for wellness checks.


Preparing Your Cat for the Visit

Truffle in Sleepypod
Truffle securely fastened in her Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed

One of the reasons given by pet owners for not taking their cats to the vet is the difficulty of getting them into a cat carrier and traveling in the vehicle.

Fear Free Happy Homes gives the following recommendations for preparing your feline for the trip to the veterinarian.

  • Don't feed your cat before the visit.
  • If your veterinarian has prescribed any anti-nausea or anti-anxiety supplements or medications, make sure to give them as prescribed.
  • Use a Towel, shirt, blanket, or bed sprayed with species-specific calming pheromones.
  • Make sure your cat is acclimated to a carrier and is not stressed by travel confinement.
  • Cats should be resting comfortably in their carrier before being placed in the vehicle. 
  • When transporting your cat in a carrier, minimize movement. If possible, support the carrier from the bottom, with one side resting against your chest, as if you are carrying a fragile gift. 
  • Budget plenty of time to avoid being rushed
  • Prepare the car so it promotes a calming environment
    • Play calming music specially composed for cats and dogs, or pop in an audiobook. 
    • Apply 6 to 8 sprays of calming pheromones 10 to 15 minutes before your pet enters the carrier or car. 
    • Cool or warm the car to a comfortable temperature before putting your pet inside
  • Make sure the carrier is properly secured in the vehicle.
  • To prevent car sickness, accelerate slowly from a stop, allow extra distance between other vehicles to prevent sudden braking, and take turns slowly. 
  • Be matter of fact, and don’t speak to your pet in a sing-song voice. If you are calm, happy and relaxed, your pet will be, too. 
  • Cats need five to ten minutes to adjust to their new surroundings and feel safe. If you cannot avoid waiting in the lobby, place your cat’s carrier on an elevated surface & cover the front and two sides with a pheromone-infused towel.  

A key recommendation given by many animal behaviorists and professionals is to help get your cat acclimated to the carrier by leaving it out in the house so the cat is familiar with it and doesn't associate it with trips to the vet. Leave the door open, provide favorite treats and toys in the carrier, and choose a location where your cat can relax. I use the Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed that you see Truffle inside in the above photo. The top of this carrier can be removed and be used as a cat bed. My vets also use the Sleepypod inside of the cages when the girls need to stay for longer periods of time to assist with their comfort and anxiety.


During the Visit

Truffle and Dr. Strom
Dr. Strom examining Truffle during her recent problems with Bladder Stones

I admit that I didn't always take my previous pets to the vet on a regular basis. Most of our trips were to give rabies vaccinations (because of state law) or for illnesses. I realized several years ago the importance of wellness visits and began taking my girls to the vet annually to make sure they stayed healthy and to ward off any potential problems. Cats are notorious for hiding illness and pain and many times, it may be too late when you take them to the vet if you wait for obvious signs. Cats also age much more rapidly than humans and become seniors before we're prepared. Visiting the vet on a regular basis can allow the vet to perform examinations, bloodwork, and other tests for potential problems of aging cats. The vet will also weigh your cat at each wellness visit to see if there is any weight gain or loss which may indicate health conditions that need to be addressed or monitored. The key to remember is that preventative care is better than reactive care!

Discussions of microchipping and neutering cats should occur during initial visits with the veterinarian. It is strongly recommended that both occur with your cats if they haven't already been done.

During the visit, you can discuss any behavior changes with your veterinarian. Our vet asks about the food the girls are eating, their litter box habits, and changes in behavior. I recommend you keep a journal of your cats and make a list of concerns and questions you have for the vet. Because of losing Truffle's littermate, Beignet, to a sarcoma from his vaccination and Brulee's recent violent reaction to vaccinations, we discuss the need for future vaccinations. South Carolina does require rabies vaccinations. However, with the girls' history of reactions and the fact they are totally indoor cats, we may reconsider this as they age. I also ask my veterinarians about current research for illnesses in cats so I may become more educated in their care. My vets are more than willing to share articles or links to appropriate research.

Take your notebook with you to the vet and write down key points. I also ask for the veterinarian notes from the visits so I can review them again once I get home. I never hesitate to contact the veterinarian if I have questions. Be observant how your vet treats and reacts to your cats. I remember taking Praline to a vet once and after he examined her, he didn't touch her again and stayed away from her. I found out later he was allergic to cats. I didn't take Praline back to him because I felt I needed a vet who would give her his undivided attention during a visit. I love how the vets at Cherokee Trail will rub the girls' ears, play with their ear tufts, pet them, and cuddle with them. I know this isn't connected to their expertise, but it lets me know they care about my cats, which helps me feel more relaxed and confident in their treatment.

Paying for Veterinary Services

Truffle and Brulee on examination table at vet
Truffle and Brulee on the examination table


One reason given by many pet parents for not taking their cat to the vet is the cost. Just like human medicine, pet care can be expensive, but it's important to plan for wellness visits and illnesses/injuries with your cat. 

Special Savings Account

Many people set aside a separate savings account for their cats vet visits. If you are disciplined and can do this, it's a wonderful thing to do. Basic wellness visits can cost from $50+. Any additional tests, medications, vaccinations, or procedures increase the costs. If your cat requires an overnight stay or surgery, the costs can get into the thousands. There are clinics in local communities who provide reduced costs for examinations and rabies vaccinations. I prefer taking the girls to a specific hospital where I know the vet, but support these mobile clinics if they encourage people to take their cats to the vet.

CareCredit or Other Credit Cards

I'm not a person who is disciplined enough to set aside a specific amount of money each month to cover emergencies for myself or my cats. There was a time my finances were terrible due to multiple illnesses I experienced myself, but I always found a way to get my cats the veterinary care they needed. One recommendation given by many friends and veterinary professionals is to apply for a Care Credit card. CareCredit is a line of credit that can be used to cover expenses at a veterinary hospital (if accepted). It's basically a Visa card that is only accepted at medical or veterinary facilities. There is are no interest charges if paid off within a certain time period.  The CareCredit credit card gives you the flexibility to use your card again and again for your pet's procedures. I use my CareCredit card to pay for large expenses (tests, surgeries, emergency care) upfront and pay it off once I'm reimbursed by our pet insurance.

Pet Insurance

I cannot stress the importance of getting pet insurance for your cats. I spent over $2000 since April when Truffle had surgery to remove bladder stones (tests, medication, surgery, office visits, etc.) and over $1000 when Brulee had her recent reaction to her vaccination. Thanks to Trupanion Pet Insurance, I was reimbursed 90% of the costs, minus the vet examination fee. There are a lot of pet insurance companies available to choose from, but be sure to read the fine print, especially as it relates to preexisting conditions and allowable costs. I chose Trupanion when Praline was 12 years old because they were the only company at that time to cover a senior pet and I was able to choose my deductible and copay. I purchased pet insurance for Truffle and Brulee before they even came to live with me. I do need to pay the costs upfront, but once Trupanion receives my information, I'm reimbursed within a week (direct deposit is available). This allows me to pay back the expenditures on my CareCredit account or bank account. Dr. Boyette told me on a recent visit that they provide a one-month complimentary subscription to Trupanion for new puppies and kittens. 

Many veterinary hospitals are offering wellness plans for their clients. Cherokee Trail provides a Wellness Plan that covers the costs of the vet examination fee for biannual visits. There is an initial charge upfront and a reasonable monthly charge throughout the year. This plan encourages pet parents to bring their cats to the vet at least twice a year. The Wellness plan includes:

  • Two Physical Exams
  • Any needed vaccines
  • Four Nail Trims (non-sedation)
  • Twelve Doses of Heartworm / Flea Prevention (one 6 pack at sign up and another 6 months later)
  • One Full Wellness Profile*
    • Chemistry Panel (22 tests)
    • Complete Blood Count
    • Thyroid Test
    • Urinalysis
    • Intestinal Parasite Exam
    • Heartworm Test
*For Cats, a “Feline Mini Wellness Panel” (CBC, Chem Panel (9 tests), Intestinal Parasite Exam, FeLV test, FIV test)

Happy and Healthy Cats

Brulee and Truffle with their Sleepypod® Air Carrier

My cats are my family and deserve as much health and happiness I can provide. Taking them to the vet twice a year for wellness visits and when they are ill is key to keeping them with me as long as possible. I've developed a great rapport with the vets who see Truffle and Brulee and depend on their expertise, care, and assistance in helping to maintain the best quality of life for them.

If you aren't already taking your cats to the vet on a regular basis, I encourage you do schedule that appointment now so your feline will be around for a long time to provide companionship, love, and comfort to you.

Giveaway

We've shared many photos of Truffle and Brulee in their Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Beds and are excited to announce that one of our readers has the opportunity to win a Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed (color may vary from photograph) for her pet.  No purchase necessary. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States 18+ years, except where prohibited by law. The giveaway will run from August 22 - 31, ending at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter (powered by Random.org) and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to claim her prize; failure to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize and a new winner will be randomly chosen. To qualify for the giveaway, a comment must be left on our blog post.  Other entry options are available after a comment is left.  Please check your email and be sure to add sweetpurrfections@sc.rr.com to your address book!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Resources

American Animal Hospital Association. https://www.aaha.org.

American Association of Feline Practitioners. Cat Friendly Practices. https://catfriendly.com/keep-your-cat-healthy/cat-friendly-practice/expect-cat-friendly-practice/

Boyette, Heyward. Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital. July 31, 2018. (telephone conversation).

Fear Free. Fear Free Happy Homes. https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/veterinary-visit-resources/

Muth, Felicity. Scientific American. March 30, 2016. What We Understand About Cats and What They Understand About Ushttps://blogs.scientificamerican.com/not-bad-science/what-we-understand-about-cats-and-what-they-understand-about-us/

Zielinski, Sarah. The Smithsonian Magazine. February 28, 2011, Studying the Bond Between a Cat and Its Humanhttps://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/studying-the-bond-between-a-cat-and-its-human-44676063/.

55 comments:

  1. We try to take our cats to the vet once a year. Key features when looking for a vet are they are very nolageable on cats.

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    1. Definitely agree! I’ve chosen a couple of the vets at this practice because of their knowledge and interactions with cats.

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  2. We all go to the vet regularly here - Binga and Boodie usually a couple of times a year because they are older!

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  3. We all go to the vet regularly. Newton and Pierre go twice a year because they are seniors, and Cupcake goes more than once a year to keep up with her bad teeth.

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  4. We go to the Vet regularly too, some more than others. Excellent and most important information. Thanks for joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

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  5. We go to the vet yearly for a check up. I look for a friendly that with a lot of experience.

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  6. We go to the vet far more than we would like to go!

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  7. Our mom takes us once a year, though the "baby" or youngest is overdue for his visit ... Bad Meowmy!
    -Tarah

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  8. Buckwheat goes at least once for vaccines, and then gets a dental cleaning annually. He is not a fan of the car ride to get there, but he likes the good folks at Hudson Veterinary hospital here in Sumter.

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  9. I take Marceline in for her annual checkups and if there's ever anything wrong. We love our vet because he is trustworthy and doesn't try to get us to pay a ton of money on things if they are not needed

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  10. It's important for my 3 cats to go to the vet every year, but my oldest and youngest get a few more than maybe the average. My youngest had a hard start in life and was neglected at his last home which now means he has to be seen more frequently. To me what makes a great vet is one who isn't just knowledgeable but one who truly understands and cares for animals. It took a little searching but I'm glad to say I have an amazing vet who treats all of his patients like they are his own pets.

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  11. Excellent post. I am at the vet about every other week, with 13 cats, most over 12, it is a necessity. I am not thrilled with the high turnover of vets at VCA, but I like that I can always get an appointment that day without an emergency fee.

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  12. Thanks for sharing the excellent post. We spread the word out to everyone yesterday about Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. Brulee and Truffle look so great in the last photo. Such beautiful kitties. Have a wonderful day.
    World of Animals

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  13. I take our cats twice a year. I look for great service.

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  14. Rare to bring my cat to vet, but regular check up every few years. Unless he needs his teeth cleaned then every so often

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  15. I don't take them to the vet as often as I should.

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  16. Your two have been well prepared for one of the most important visits of their year.

    Well done and this is a tremendously helpful cat owners post.

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  17. Great post! I don't have cats, but I take my other pets to the vet regularly, for regular checkups and as needed for any health issues. I think the key, for us, was finding a vet that we really like and one that agrees with our pet care methods (like what we feed etc) or is at least open minded rather than trying to argue with me about every little thing.

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  18. Great post and although Layla is a dog she does not like the vet so have now turned it into an adventure for her by using her backpack which she loves. I have an amazing vet and am so blessed phew and as for coverage because she is a PAWS client we do not have to pay.

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  19. I usually take my cats to the vet once a year to get their vaccines and an a exam. One loves being outside so I really make sure he stays current on his vaccines to protect him from catching anything. My other kitty is a tripod so I want him checked at least once a year to make sure he's handling being a 3 legged cat okay especially as he's now 14 years old. What I look for in a vet is 1)they dont declaw 2)how the vet is with me, whether he gives me the option of what treatments are really necessary or is too pushy for getting all the tests necessary or not 3)how the vet and staff are with my furbabies. I lived that last pic of Truffle and Brulee, they look so cute and healthy.

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  20. Doing applications for our rescue, it still amazes mom how many families take their dogs every year but not the cat. Our adoption contract states annual visits. But finding a good vet can be tough....we followed our favorite vet tech to a new office and love them.

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  21. We used to take our cat to the vet once a year, and then later we tried to take him twice a year. He was pretty comfortable going to the vet, but if we find a new vet, I'd prefer one with separated enter and exit doors. I find it stressful to try and get past other people and their pets when I'm taking care of my own.

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  22. Unless there is an issue, once a year. I look for a vet that is affordable, seems genuinely interested in my pet's health & seems knowledgeable and willing to take the time needed for me to feel comfortable w/ the care rather than rushed.

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  23. We go to the vet 1x year for check-up/shots and then anytime he needs to go for other things -- usually another 1 or 2 times a year.

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  24. I really like the idea of spraying the car before hand. I hadn't thought of that and it's a great idea. We go to the vet about twice a year for both our cat and dog. Both have some health issues that need to be monitored. Ruby had her teeth cleaned and several teeth pulled in July. Rosie will be going in for a dental in September.

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  25. I like my vet - but I wish they had some of the feline friendly practices that your vet. They say they are planning to expand and do more for cats. I guess we’ll see.

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  26. I adopted two cats in the 1990s and, like you, I didn't always take them to the vet for regular wellness checks when they were younger. I would take them when I knew they needed their rabies vaccine or if I thought something might be wrong. As they got older and the internet became more prevalent, I realized that I needed to take them to the vet more frequently. Blood work alone can detect potential issues that may not be visible yet! I do think, and hope, that all of this information available to us makes new cat parents realize more quickly how important vet visits are, even for indoor-only cats. P.S. I love the graphics you created to break up each section!

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  27. I can't believe only 50% of cats over a year old return to the Vet for care?! That is terrible. I know it costs money and it's not always easy, but everyone should try. It's too important not to.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. We totally agree. Cats are masters at hiding illnesses and many are extremely difficult to get into carriers (if you can get them out from under the bed).

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  28. Any living creature should get wellness exams. There is no way to overemphasize the importance. So many issues can be dealt with much easier if caught early.

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  29. LOVE Sleepypod products and would really lije to win one for my foster, Isabella. This sweetheart is such a good little traveller. After several trips to the vet, she's got it down pat and deserves to travel in style for all future visits. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

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  30. Oh awesome! We think those sleepypods look like wonderful carriers!

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  31. What a great post Paula. I'll have to share this. Great useful tips for cat parents. Good luck to the participants. Sleepypod is a great giveaway prize. My favorite tip is using a towel in and on the carrier. It really does seem to help keep cats a bit calmer.

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  32. Great tips! We REALLY want one of those Sleepypods!!

    The Florida Furkids

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  33. All of our gang goes to the vet regularly. Poor Benny goes every 8-12 weeks now as he is a geriatric guy. Thanks for the great giveaway!

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  34. We love this information! Finding a good vet is so important, not only for the life of a pet but for comfortable peace of mind to all involved. Thank you for sharing this! We LOVE those Sleepypods and hope someday, one will make it to our home!

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  35. What a fantastic post! Unfortunately, I seem to go to the vet a lot, even though I'm not really a sick kitty! Lexy goes once a year - she's so lucky!

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  36. I take our cats to the vet yearly, sometimes Ruby needs to go more often because she has hyperthyroidism.

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  37. Mom's not telling anyone but I have to go to the Vet tomorrow.

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  38. I hope to be healthy, then I only have to visit once a year to Mr VET.

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  39. We go usually once a year and I look for a vet that is recommended by others I trust.

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  40. This truly is a grr-eat post, Miss Paula! It really has a lot of useful insight and tips for pet owners. Mom makes sure the radio is not blasting loud when she turns on the car ignition so that I am not spooked. She also puts a blanket over my mobile transport unit to keep down any drafts as she carries me to and from the car and the vet office. I visit the vet more often than I would like too, but Mom says it's for my well being. Winks.

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  41. We take her regularly or when she gets sick.

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  42. My sisters cats go twice a year.

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  43. I take my cats once a year for their annual check up and they go other times during the year if they need shots that are not on the same timeline as their exam or if I have concerns I bring them in. We like to stick to the same vet so that my cats are as comfortable there as can be and it is not a new place each time, and I also like that they know my cats history better since they have gone there all their life.

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  44. We take him once a year. We look for a caring vet and a clean facility.

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  45. Usually once a year unless the cat is under the weather

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  46. We take our cats to the vet annually

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  47. every six months. We have a trusted vet that's been in our family for fifteen years. Caring and compassionate is the key component to a great vet.

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  48. Our three cats go to the vet on a regular basis!! Love our kitties!!

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  49. Ninja is 2.5 years old, so her visits average yearly to date. I look at several things in a vet - word of mouth recommendations from knowledgeable folks, the vet’s qualifications, and their commitment to continuing education. This is such a great and comprehensive post chock-full of important information - bookmarking it to share! I was also looking into insurance for Ninja a few months ago, & should look into it again. I’m absolutely in LOVE with the design of the Sleepypod beds as well!

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  50. To the vet once per year. I look for quality in a vet.

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  51. We go around once a year and we look for one that is recommended by others that they have went to and said they were great to take them too

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