The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association have released the AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines, developed to promote appropriate wellness care for cats. These guidelines recommend cats be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year, regardless of the cat's age.
The need for such guidelines was identified by the CATalyst Council, a national initiative to champion the cat, in light of "alarming" statistics reported in the 2007 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. For instance, the sourcebook revealed that the number of cats kept as pets outnumber dogs, yet receive significantly less veterinary care. Further studies have indicated that an inability to recognize signs of illness of injury is a key factor as to why cat owners are unaware of their cat’s medical needs, according to AAFP and AAHA. In addition, the associations note that the concern of a stressful veterinary visit for both cat and owner is a contributing deterrent to veterinary visits for cats.
The aim of the guidelines is to help veterinarians act in partnership with cat owners which will in turn enhance the client-veterinary bond, according to AAFP and AAHA.
Specifically, the guidelines will offer practical strategies that veterinary practices can integrate into their daily routines to help alleviate common stressors and work more successfully with an anxious cat. The guidelines also address health care recommendations specific to the lifestage of the feline patient, and emphasize educating clients about behavior and environmental issues that promote a healthy life style.
The guidelines also call for veterinarians to gather data at certain lifestages to use to assess subsequent medical changes. These data include a CBC, a chemistry screen, urinalysis, T4, blood pressure, retroviral testing and fecal examination.
The guidelines further offer age-specific discussion/action items for various subject areas: behavior and environment; medical/surgical history; elimination; nutrition and weight management; oral health, parasite control and vaccination.
The AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines, which was published in the January issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery and the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, was sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, Merial Ltd., Pfizer Animal Health and Idexx Laboratories.
The AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage panel members included: Guidelines Co-Chair Ilona Rodan, DVM, Dipl. ABVP (feline); Guidelines Co-Chair Amy Hoyumpa Vogt, DVM, Dipl. (canine and feline); Scott Brown, VMD, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM; Marcus Brown, DVM; Tony Buffington, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVN; M.J. LaRue Forman, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM; Jacqui Neilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVB; Andy Sparkes, BVetMed, Ph.D., Dipl. ECVIM.