Why taking her cat to the vet spells trouble for Petfinder’s co-founder

My husband, Ed, is a very understanding guy. By day we’re like normal married people, but as evening rolls around and my interest in getting cozy and snuggling begins to rise, Ed has to come to terms with being “the other man.” Not that I view him that way, of course (that would make me a terrible wife!). But Charlie does. Charlie is my little man in a cat suit that allows Ed to share our bed.

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Betsy enjoys some cuddling time with her little man in a cat suit.

There are few beings that I am more attached to than Charlie. He has been with me for many years, through thick and thin. He has suffered the indignity of being my barn cat (he came from rescue with a bad reputation), then an office cat, and then, finally when he and I moved in together, I realized what I’d been missing. Oh, how I love Charlie. So why is Charlie chronically overdue for his annual check ups, vaccination and dentals?

Read the rest of Charlie’s story after the jump and help us celebrate Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month.

The answer? Because he is in charge and chooses not to go to the vet.
That’s right, like a permissive parent, a co-dependent friend, or like the majority of cat lovers out there, I am totally reluctant when it
comes to scheduling annual exams for my kitty. Ironically, I’m normally
queen of preventative care — with seemingly unlimited resources and
resolve for the care of my guys. I’m not alone. Thirty-eight percent of
cat owners say they get stressed just thinking about taking their cat to
the vet. And while pet cats outnumber dogs, cats see the veterinarian on average less than half as often as their canine counterparts.

For us, it starts with the car
ride. Or, rather, it ends there — since I am loath to subject my poor
feline friend to the horror. He is like a noisy odometer in the back
seat. At mile one he is wide-eyed and silent. At mile two he chirps
“meh” hesitantly and drools. At mile three his yowling has reached a
crescendo that I know means business — bad tummy ache. On cue at mile
four, Charlie gets very sick. (I’m not talking about up-chuck sick. I’m
talking back-chuck.) So, for any substantial trips, poor Charlie rides
in his litter box (by his own choice, thank goodness). Charlie and his
traveling litter box make me sad. My normally gregarious, brave cat
becomes a depressed worrier who won’t (can’t) leave his Porta-Potty.

I know what you are thinking: It’s no secret! The experts on the Internet
(including we at Petfinder) make it very clear that the trick is to
slowly acclimate Charlie to the car with short trips with positive
rewards — around the block and back quickly for salmon cakes. (Read our advice for getting your cat to like the car.) I know
this works. It worked for my parent’s cat, Lou. But my love affair with
Charlie makes it tough to decide that today is the day that I’m going to
ruin his day with an unnecessary car trip. So the day never comes until
finally I’ve received my third friendly-gram from my veterinarian and
it’s too late to practice.

This avoidance issue is really
troubling to me because I know how important routine physical exams
are. Many cats should get one every six months. It is even more
important for cats than for dogs. The exams can turn up weight changes,
dehydration, hypertension, dental disease and more. The cat is known for
hiding pain and illness — again, much more than dogs — so they cover
up the signs that may indicate a serious illness.

I now have a
great local veterinarian that is about two miles away. This is lucky for
us, since we can get there before the fourth mile Charlie-ometer kicks
in — we can travel sans litter box. It is still a harrowing journey. I
drive as gently as I can, and other drivers honk at me through the
intersections. I’m trying not to stop and start too much and I’m taking
wide corners, like an 18-wheeler, with Charlie mewing sadly and me
apologizing profusely.

Once there, things calm down a little because my veterinarian is pretty cat-friendly (if yours isn’t, send her to The CATalyst Council
so she can learn to be). My vet has a separate entry and waiting space for
cats. She lets cats wander around the exam room a while before the exam
to get comfortable with their surroundings. The exam itself can happen
where it is supposed to: wherever the cat wants to be. Once she gave
Charlie his exam in her lap. Another time his exam was done in the scale
(an irony that was lost on Charlie, but not on the clinic staff, who
got a kick out of Charlie’s robustness muffin-topping over the scale’s

My own bad parenting aside, all cats deserve a cat-friendly practice and that may mean a cats-only veterinarian if you are lucky enough to have one nearby.

is almost time again for Charlie’s annual exam. He’s going to need a dental
after that. Our veterinarian, who is incredibly sympathetic to us, has
actually recommended a mobile vet she likes. But I’d rather get Charlie
used to the ride, since having a doctor come into his safety zone — his
home — has its downside too. Plus, for vacations and emergencies,
Charlie needs to feel safe in a car.

So, I am recommitting
to getting Charlie comfy in the car. It won’t be easy. It may make me
cry, so Ed is going to help. Our first step will be to take very short
trips down the driveway and come back for positive rewards. I’ll get a
Margarita or a piece of cake. Oh, yes, and my little man in a cat suit
will get salmon. After a week or two, I bet we’ll see some progress. Maybe Charlie and I will be ready for Take Your Cat to the Vet Week in August (18-25).

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