Background and goals

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Cats have become the most popular pet in the United States, yet statistics about veterinary care for cats remain troubling.1 Although most owners consider their cats to be family members, cats are substantially underserved, compared with dogs.

In 2006, owners took their dogs to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats, averaging 2.3 times/year, compared with 1.1 times/year for cats, and significantly more dogs (58%) than cats (28%) were seen by a veterinarian one or more times/year.2 Cat owners often express a belief that cats 'do not need medical care'. Two reasons for this misconception are that signs of illness are often difficult to detect, and cats are perceived to be self-sufficient.2 One role of the veterinarian is to develop a partnership with cat owners that will pave the way for a lifelong health care plan. These guidelines aim to outline an evidence-based life stage wellness program to aid the veterinary medical team in delivering the best comprehensive care for cats. Specific goals are to provide:

  • Recommendations for optimal health care for cats throughout the different life stages.
  • Practical suggestions and tools to facilitate improved veterinary visits and to enhance the client–veterinarian clinical encounter.
  • A foundation from which to access sources of additional information.

Evidence-based healthcare

Supporting references for specific recommendations are supplied where possible, and any previously published guidelines on particular topics are referred to where relevant. Readers should note, however, that the guidelines panel was hampered in its efforts by the relative paucity of disease incidence data by age group that is available, and there is an urgent need for research to guide the future of evidence-based feline health care.3

The AAFP and AAHA welcome endorsement of these guidelines from the European Society of Feline Medicine, and acknowledge the help of the Feline Advisory Bureau's WellCat for Life programme in helping to formulate the guidance.