Lack of Access to Veterinary Care

Care is all about access. If there are no veterinarians in your area, are you potentially endangering the feline friends you adopt? Sandy A. writes:

This isn’t really a problem with a cat, but a problem with my getting one. From past experience, I have learned that cats can fall sick at the worst times, like after a major snowstorm. The fact that I don’t own a car and my nearest relative might not always be available worries me a lot. Do you have any idea if there are organizations who I could call for a ride to a vet in an emergency? I live in North East Pennsylvania. I’d love to share my home with a furry companion, but this is a big concern.

Sandy, it really can be quite difficult for people in rural areas to get good veterinary care for their pets. Veterinarians often need to build their practices in more populated areas in order to have enough patients to stay afloat. That means that many rural areas have little or no access to even the most basic health care for animals. 

The Human Society has tried to emphasize this need with their Rural Area Veterinary Services program, but their current coverage is spotty at best. They don't currently host any clinics in your area. But don't give up hope. We have a couple of ideas.

If there are farms in your area, they must need veterinary care from time to time. Even if their veterinarian only comes around from time to time, making a connection with them could mean the difference between some care and no care at all. It's worth asking around.

It could also be helpful to start forging connections of Facebook with various cat rescues nearby. I've seen people do amazing things to help a fellow pet owner in need. A Facebook post about an ailing cat can produce fast results. We've seen people travel thousands of miles to adopt an animal they saw posted on FB, so it's not too crazy to imagine that someone who lives near you might be willing to be an on-call friend for that potential pet emergency.

If the cats (we always recommend adopting a bonded pair - siblings if at all possible) are kept indoors and are fed a healthy, low-carb, wet food only diet, they're much less likely to have health issues in the first place. Be proactive and make sure you take them in for checkups every six months when you can get a ride and you probably won't have a lot of emergencies. Of course, it's possible that something unexpected will happen, but with so many cats in need of homes, we would certainly prefer that some of them be homed with a caring person like you instead of being stuck in a shelter, or worse.

Sandy, if you do decide to adopt, you just have to accept the fact that the onus of your cats' health care would fall on you. That means that you need to be willing and able to conduct the research and treatments yourself, possibly with the aid of a phone call to a veterinary hospital in Scranton or Plains. We found a great practice in Plains that might be willing to offer you phone advice and they're open 24/7: Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital . If you were able to visit them when you first adopt and make sure your new feline friends are in the best of health, they would have your pets' records on file and would probably be more willing to offer phone consults, as your cat friends would officially be patients of theirs.

We also recommend that you read some good cat care books prior to adopting. We particularly like Anitra Frazier's The Natural Cat which includes many holistic remedies that are easy to stock because they don't require a prescription.

Do what your heart tells you, Sandy, but try not to worry. If adopting will bring more worry to your heart than it relieves, then it may not be worth it for you. We think it's wonderful that you take the responsibility of caring for a cat so seriously, and just wish more cat caregivers were like you! Just don't let it weigh on your mind if you do adopt.