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What’s up with cats who hate the doctor?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When I met Sherman, he was a sporty little black and white feline youth of about 8 weeks. I vaccinated and neutered him, events that left our professional relationship unscathed. Sherman was also treated well at home, on his way to an excellent life.

Dr. Jeff NicholEvery time I encountered Sherman, I found him to be cooperative and enjoyable. His folks, Bonnie and Rick, wanted only the best for him. Then there was a job transfer to California. I really liked that little family; I was sad to see them go.

One day, about 8 years later, I received an email from Bonnie. She was happy to report that she and her husband, along with Sherman, had returned to Albuquerque. She had a question or two about her cat. Sherman’s appetite had been diminishing and she was concerned that he was losing weight. Bonnie hoped that I could advise her regarding a different diet for her special cat.

Like many caring cat parents in this situation, Bonnie and Rick had already tried a PetSmart cart full of elegant morsels, but Sherman was losing interest. Evidence-based medicine requires a doctor to diagnose first and treat second. Cats who lose their appetites aren’t finicky. They’re sick.

It had been a long time since Sherman had seen a veterinarian. It wasn’t that his folks didn’t feel that it was important; he simply hated going. During his first veterinary visit in California, several years earlier, the staff had taken him to the treatment room for his vaccination booster. His folks heard their boy cry out, but he was returned to them in apparently good form. They took him home, unconcerned.

The next time routine care was needed, after a lot of pushing, shoving, coaxing and cajoling to get Sherman into his carrier, he became intensely aggressive toward the doctor and staff. Believing that cats, especially those living indoors with doting pet parents, do OK on their own, his people gave up on wellness visits.

Forgoing veterinary care is a choice made by lots of caring pet parents because they can’t stand to see their cats or dogs freak out. There is more to Sherman’s story, to be continued next week.

Each week, Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at or send them by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.