Volunteers Needed for Research. Must Like Talking About Your Cat

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Researchers in California are calling for cat owners to do their favorite thing in the name of science: talk about their cat. The team aims to understand how to make remote vet visits more appealing to owners, in hopes of better ensuring that cats can get the regular medical care they need.

The research is being led by scientists from the Animal Welfare Epidemiology Lab at the University of California, Davis. They’re trying to tackle a longstanding problem in the pet world. Compared to dogs, cats don’t see the vet as often for check-ups. And when they do, the experience can be especially stressful for both cat and owner.

In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, telemedicine has emerged as a viable alternative or supplement to in-person care for humans. So the team wants to see if the same can be true for cats, too. As part of this goal, they’re now asking cat owners to fill out a short questionnaire about their Attitudes toward telemedicine. If you’re interested in participating, you can do so here.

“Ultimately, we want to assess if video telemedicine will help increase accessibility and the owner is willingness to provide their cat with health care. This is particularly important since cat owners are less likely to provide their cat with routine health care, compared to dogs and their owners,” Ashley Bidgoli, an undergraduate student at the lab, told Gizmodo in an email.

Bidgoli notes that veterinary regulations in many states only allow for the use of telemedicine if the cat still physically sees the vet at least once a year. So these programs aren’t intended to replace the traditional visit, but they might make it more feasible and affordable for owners to consult a vet for less-concerns or to maintain an overall urgent high quality of health care for their furry felines.

“Video telemedicine also allows the veterinary team to see the home environment directly, which may help optimize at-home management of behavior problems and chronic illnesses. In addition, video telemedicine may also be necessary for re-check type appointments such as post-surgical check-ins where in-person visits may not be,” Bidgoli said.

The survey will be open to anyone over the age of 18 who owns at least one cat, and no prior experience with using remote vet visits is required. The team is looking to recruit somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 volunteers. Should everything go well, they hope to get their research published in about a year’s time.