Just like us, cats need to visit their medical professional regularly to maintain or achieve optimal health.
Our felines are smart and can come to realize that when they are placed in a carrier inside a car it is most likely for a trip to the vet. At the sight of their travel carrier, cats hide, hiss, or even display their claws in protest. Getting that whiskers to tail exam done by a veterinarian, however, is vital to your cat’s long-term health.
Kittens mature quickly and are the equivalent of a 16-year-old human by their first birthday! During their second year on the planet, maturation slows down a bit marking them at 25 in human years. From age 3 onward, cats stabilize aging equally to 4 human years annually making them “middle-aged” on their 6th birthday.
Therefore, even if you take your kitty to the vet for a yearly check-up, it is like if you were only going to your doctor once every 4-5 years for a visit. Additionally, it is important with older cats that a semi-annual (or twice yearly) exam be scheduled as it may be a lifesaver for your cat!
Just like our routine visits to the dentist, preventive care is of great benefit to our cats in several ways:
After assessing your cat and learning how her body is working, your veterinarian can help you make the best choices regarding diet, exercise, vaccinations, diagnostic testing and enrichment to contribute to raising a happy and healthy feline.
Sometimes we need our cat’s veterinarian to set us straight as to behaviors that could jeopardize kitty’s health and longevity. Your vet can help you understand your cat’s ideal body weight, how much water she should intake and output daily, and offer tips on how to decrease boredom so that her life is more fulfilled.
Establishing baselines to find out your cat’s health at “this” moment in time, will allow your veterinarian to monitor and quickly adjust course when deviations first rear appear. Waiting for signs and symptoms to show up wastes time allowing health to deteriorate.
It is not only what your veterinarian will look for during your cat’s check-up, but also what your cat does every single day!
Tune in and observe your cat’s eating habits, thirst, litterbox routine, behaviors, and activity level so that you can answer questions your veterinarian may ask you. Being keenly aware of what is normal for your cat, allows you to be aware of abnormalities and get them addressed in a timely manner.
When you make the appointment, confirm whether your cat needs to fast and if you need to bring in a fresh urine and/or fecal sample. Poll your family members to see if anyone has noticed any problems or changes in the family kitty that you can report. Also be sure to confirm with family and frequent guests that no one has been sneaking your cat table scraps or food brands you are unaware of.
It can really help your cat feel more comfortable at the vet clinic if you work with her at home.
Get to know your kitty from snout-to-tail by checking her for lumps and bumps as well as checking her teeth and looking for fleas regularly. Getting her used to the human touch will not only make her a better patient but will lower her stress at the clinic.
Help your cat learn that her carrier is a safe haven. Leave it open where the family gathers with a comfy blanket, toys, and her favorite treats.
Cats that rarely see carriers, associate them with an unpleasant visit to the vet. Several times a year (if you are able to do so), take kitty to the vet when she does not have an appointment scheduled. Sit in the waiting room letting her take in the sights and smells as you feed her favorite treats. After 5 or 10 minutes, leave and go home. Her new association with the vet office will be a pleasant one.
Building upon your at-home exam, your veterinarian will physically feel and observe your cat, provide recommendations for vaccinations, diet, exercise and supplements as well as any diagnostic testing that could find a problem early.
The physical exam can include palpating the abdomen (kidneys, bladder, liver, spleen, and stomach), feeling if organs are of normal size and if there is apparent discomfort. Your vet will auscultate (listen to the heart with a stethoscope) for rate, skipped beats or murmurs and to the lungs for normal respirations or wheezing and to the gastrointestinal tract for gurgling or lack of sounds altogether.
At the same time, your cat’s medical professional will pay attention to her alertness and interest in her surroundings. Your cat’s weight, muscle tone and condition of her skin and coat will be noted, all of which may indicate various diseases or deficiencies.
Your vet will look for unusual discharge from the eyes, ears and private areas, symmetry of the face and lymph nodes noting swelling and will look in your cat’s pearly (or not-so-pearly) whites for tartar build-up, periodontal disease, abscesses, and broken teeth.
Preventive recommendations from your vet may include vaccinations to keep your precious pet from contracting diseases such as rabies, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia and feline leukemia. Parasite prevention may also top the list to keep fleas and ticks at bay.
Baseline or diagnostic testing will be suggested if “norms” have not been established for your cat, so do not think of them as unnecessary expenses if your kitty appears healthy. Your feline family member cannot tell you how she feels and what ails her.
As a means of survival, cats instinctually hide signs of disease, so without testing, problems may advance undetected.
Here are a few items that your vet will check to see if your furry friend is feeling their best:
- A complete blood count (CBC) determines the number of red and white cells, if there are sufficient platelets to clot and alerts to inflammation, anemia, or blood diseases.
- Blood chemistry panels assess organ function, if your cat has injured muscles and how well the thyroid is working.
- Urinalysis evaluates overall kidney function.
- Parasite exams check for worms and intestinal parasites.
- Middle-aged to senior cats may receive chest and/or abdominal radiographs (aka X-rays) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) so that the size of internal organs can be viewed as well as degeneration of joints, the presence of arthritis or potential masses.
- Check with your veterinarian to see how often your kitty may need to be examined to maintain good health.
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