Of Fat Cats and Teeth: A National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day Story #Cat2VetDay

Note: While I am not being compensated for this specific blog post, I have been hired to work with Dr. Jane Brunt and the CATalyst Council to spread the word about Take Your Cat to the Vet Day.


August 22 is Take Your Cat to the Vet Day

For every post tagged with #Cat2VetDay in August, Royal Canin will donate $5* to Frankie’s Friends, a non-profit that helps with the cost of veterinary care for pets whose families can’t afford the full cost of treatment.

A Trip to the V.E.T. (I have to spell it or they know.)

I recently had some of the gang in for their routine exams, and there was a mixture of good news and not-so-good news.

The dogs did pretty well. Bloodwork, urinalysis, poo-poo sample (technical term) all came back good. The dogs are perfect, weightwise, except for Jasper, who could stand to gain a few pounds. Yes, gain. All three of my pups had been a bit chunky, so I think now we can spare a few more  treats now and again.

The best part of the exam was when my vet looked at the dogs’ teeth and said — and I proudly quote here — “You’ve been brushing their teeth?”

Darn right I was. Every night.

“It shows,” I was told. “Their teeth look great.”

This after previous visits where Jasper needed a dental cleaning, and Tucker required several tooth extractions because he had broken a few of his pearly whites on antlers. Go figure. I thought they were safe.

This time? No need for dental cleaning. Yay!

Take Your Cat to the Vet Day #Cat2VetDay Dawn

Dawn wasn’t very happy to be out of her carrier. But she put it up with it very well.

Routine checkups found some problems with the cats

But Dawn and Athena were another story. I don’t brush my cats’ teeth. I have enough trouble wrangling them to cut their nails. At least in those cases, I’m removing the pointy bits. But put my fingers in a cat’s mouth who isn’t too inclined? I tried in the past. Let’s just say, it didn’t work out too well for all involved.

Thus at their checkups, I was informed that both cats needed dental cleaning. Both had gingivitis. And Athena had some serious teeth and gum issues that would more than likely require some attention.


Athena at the vet: Take Your Cat to the Vet Day #Cat2VetDay

Athena doesn’t mind coming out of her carrier and wandering around. Though she did seem to feel most comfortable under the bench in the exam room.

I felt terrible.

I made appointments for their procedures, and sat worrying the entire time they were gone. Eventually I got the call: Dawn needed one tooth pulled, Athena, six. That poor baby.

They sent me home with pain meds, which helped both kitties through the next week. They provided no salve to assuage my guilt.

So I vowed to try even harder to clean my cats’ teeth. It’s going to take patience (I figure about three to six months.) Creativity (Trying giving a treat or focusing on one animal in a house with seven.) And dedication (I have a feeling each cat will want to a different method, because, well… they’re cats.)

The importance of regular wellness exams for cats: Take Your Cat to the Vet Day

But why do cats need their teeth cleaned — or pulled? And why did I even bring them in for a wellness exam anyway? None of my cats exhibited any symptoms that indicated problems of any kind with their health.

And there you have it folks.

Cats are great at masking symptoms. And a recent study by Banfield showed that they see five times as many dogs as cats in their clinics, even though it is reported that there are about 8 million more pet cats than dogs. (See sources below.)

I learned this recently, as the folks at the CATalyst Council — a coalition whose mission is to connect people and organizations to transform the health, welfare, and value of companion cats — hired me to help get the word out about Take Your Cat to the Vet Day on August 22.

It seemed bizarre to me that we would need a special day to remind folks to take their cats to the vet, because I treat my canines and felines the same way, bringing them in for wellness exams and the occasional issue.

Take Your Cat to the Vet Day Data

But apparently there are plenty of reasons people don’t take their cats to the vet.

Cats mask their issues: It takes trained clinicians to find them

They think the cats don’t need it, because, well, cats don’t show it. But just because cats are masters of hiding their pains and weaknesses, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. It just means as a cat parent, you need an expert — AKA your veterinarian — to help understand the state of your cat’s health. “It’s not that cats are inherently healthier than dogs,” says Jane Brunt, DVM, Executive Director of the CATalyst Council and owner of Cat Hospital At Towson in Maryland. “It’s that they are stoic about their symptoms, making it nearly impossible for even the most observant pet owner to recognize signs of potential problems.”

“But it’s too expensive !” Only if you think short term

Which brings me to the second reason people avoid bringing kitty to the vet: cost. Yup, it can be expensive. But, trust me on this one: routine wellness exams can uncover illnesses before they become life threatening — and costly. Dr. Brunt told me that the two most common issues with cats are easily discoverable and treatable: obesity and — you guessed it — oral disease. Getting your cat’s teeth cleaned when they need it can help avoid expensive extractions. And both obesity and dental problems, if left untreated, can cause even worse issues. You might spend some money for a checkup, but finding and treating health problems in their early stages; tell me that’s not priceless.

How to make your carrier a home away from home #Cat2VetDay

“It’s a pain in the tail to take a cat to the vet” but there are ways to make it easier — on everyone

One of the other major reasons people don’t bring Kitty to the vet? Getting her there is hard.  They always seem to know when you’re about to take them, and if they haven’t figured it out through their feline spy network, the instant you bring out the crate, they make a beeline for the furthest reaches of the couch. You know what I’m talking about: where the Jurassic dust bunnies live. When you finally  move the couch (finding 18 lost cat toys in the process), grab the cat, and stick her in the crate, drive her yowling (and ripping your heart out) on what seems like an endless car ride to the vet, you both might be ready to call the whole thing off. But don’t. There is a better way. Below are some of Dr. Brunt’s suggestions for making a trip to the veterinarian less stressful for your cat — and you.

Tips for Making a Trip to the Vet with Your Cat More Pleasant

  • Keep the carrier out: Bring the carrier out at least a week before the appointment. Better yet, leave it out so the cat can get used to it, explore it, and maybe even curl up and take a nap in it.
  • Decorate for cats: Not outside: inside. Make the interior of the carrier interesting and attractive to your feline friend by placing treats, catnip or a favorite toy or two in the carrier.
  • Offer praise and rewards: Make the interaction between the cat and the carrier a pleasant one, by offering treats, chin scratches, playtime — whatever makes your cat happy — whenever he or she interacts with it.
  • Wear it and share it: Put a recently worn article of your clothing — like a t-shirt or sweatshirt — in the carrier. Not only does this give your cat something to snuggle in or hide under, but your scent can also provide additional comfort.

Your vet is your partner, so work with him or her ahead of time to come up with a plan to reduce your cat’s stress. There are medications she can prescribe, or pheromones like Feliway that have been  shown to reduce anxiousness in cats. Dr. Brunt reminded me that cats are “the hunters and the hunted.” So we need to try to see things from their perspective; it’s scary to be taken to an unfamiliar place. Think like a cat, and provide ways to give them the safe space they need in an unfamiliar situation.

One other tip: you may want to try taking your cat to a feline-friendly vet, one that has been designated a Cat Friendly Practice® by the American Association of Feline Practitioners — the AAFP — or look for a clinic that has been certified as Fear Free. Facilities and practitioners with these designations are focused on making visits to the vet as stress-free as possible.

We all love our cats — but they need more then our love. More than food or catnip or toys. (Though those are all required of a cat parent.) They need our care, and we need our veterinarians’ help to provide that.


[1] Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study III: Feline Findings http://www.bayerdvm.com/show.aspx/resources/feline-practitioners-resource-center/bayer-veterinary-care-usage-study

[1] Banfield State of Pet Health Report, 2016: http://www.banfield.com/Banfield/media/PDF/Downloads/soph/Banfield-State-of-Pet-Health-Report-2016.pdf

5 Comments on "Of Fat Cats and Teeth: A National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day Story #Cat2VetDay"

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  1. all this – we wish cat parents were more on top of things realizing cats are so good at hiding symptoms

  2. So sorry to hear about the dental issues with the kitties. Truffle and Brulee both had their wellness checkups recently and their teeth are good. There is a beginning of some tartar on Truffle’s teeth. I admit, I don’t brush them. I don’t know if I could do it with them now or not.

    We’re proud to say our vet is AAHA accredited, a Cat Friendly Hospital, and obtaining Fear Free certification for vets and staff.

  3. Crystal says:

    Good luck with your dental issues. Nominated you for the Liebster and The Blue Sky Award.

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