The health of the American feline population is at risk. According to a study conducted by Bayer Health and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), of the 74 million cats living in American homes, more than half (52%) are not receiving regular veterinary care.
We understand that taking your cat to the veterinarian ranks right up there with having a root canal in terms of the things you enjoy doing. In fact, the above study found that 58% of cat owners say their cat hates going to the vet, and fears getting into the carrier and riding in the car. Furthermore, once at the veterinary office, more than half of cat owners report that the visit was stressful. We understand that most cat owners are dissuaded from making those annual exam appointments for their cats, but at Total Bond Veterinary Hospital at Paw Creek, we strive to provide a veterinary visit that is different from your perception. If your cat is fearful of her carrier or of traveling, we can help with solutions ranging from different methods of containment, to medications you can give at home to help your cat relax, to behavioral modification techniques that can help your cat feel better about car rides.
At our hospital, you can rest assured our health care team will do everything we can to minimize stress. We want your cat’s visit to be pleasant, so that future visits go well, too. Our veterinarian and several team members are Fear Free certified, meaning they’ve had special training to manage your pet’s emotional wellness while at our hospital.
Now that you know your feline friend will be in our excellent hands, let’s discuss why regular veterinary care is so important for cats.
(Not so) annual vaccines
Gone are the days when every cat got every available vaccine every year. Veterinarians now know that tailoring your cat’s vaccination schedule to her individual needs is better for her health; for instance, cats who live 100% indoors are not at risk for exposure to feline leukemia, which is spread via cat-to-cat contact, so they probably don’t need that vaccine after their initial kitten series.
In addition, research has found that the immunity duration of some vaccines is longer than previously thought. The AAFP now recommends that the core combination distemper/herpes vaccine be given every three years instead of annually, and, depending on vaccine type, your cat may only need a rabies shot every three years, as well.
Let’s get physical: Examining your cat
Now you may be wondering why your cat can’t get away with a veterinary visit only every three years. But, while it’s true that vaccines are important—for example, rabies can be a death sentence for your cat, as well as affect your two-legged family members—the most important thing you can do to lengthen your beloved cat’s life is ensuring she has a yearly physical exam, or a twice-yearly exam if she is a senior.
During your cat’s physical exam, the veterinarian will check her all over by hand to assess her health. The veterinarian will listen to her heart and lungs, examine her teeth and gums, palpate her abdomen, take her blood pressure, and assess her neurologic and orthopedic health, looking for small problems before they become big problems.
Cats are masters at hiding disease. Their instincts tell them that the weakest of the pack will be preyed on first, so they mask their pain and cloak their illness, often until it is too late for successful treatment. Regular exams allow us to monitor your pet’s weight and find other subtle signs that may indicate a significant health change. We also use this time to ask about changes you may have noticed at home that could indicate illness, such as an increased or decreased appetite, or changes in litter-box habits.
Depending on your cat’s age, the veterinarian may recommend bloodwork. If we have your cat’s results when she’s healthy, that baseline can help when she’s feeling under the weather. For example, does her red blood cell level typically run on the low side of normal, or does the low result on the day she presents for lethargy really indicate anemia?
Once we have baseline results for your cat’s complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile, and thyroid hormone test, we’ll know where her blood cell levels run, and how well her major organs and thyroid are functioning. Each year, we’ll look for changes in her bloodwork results so we can find and treat any disease as early as possible.
Common complaints in cats
Cats are generally independent and aloof, so many cat owners are surprised to hear that their four-legged friends are suffering from disease. Cats are particularly are prone to several diseases throughout their lives, including:
- Dental disease — According to the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, 50% to 90% of cats over age 4 have significant dental disease.
- Arthritis — Joint pain is common in older cats, with more than 90% of cats over age 12 having radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis, regardless of the presence of clinical signs, such as limping.
- Obesity — More than 50% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and many owners don’t realize. Obesity contributes to arthritis pain and predisposes cats to endocrine diseases, such as diabetes.
- Chronic kidney disease — Some cat breeds are predisposed to polycystic kidney disease, which will put them at an early risk of kidney failure. All senior cats are prone to kidney insufficiency as they age.
- Hyperthyroidism — Older cats may produce excess thyroid hormone. Signs include hyperactivity, increased appetite, and increased night-time activity.
If it’s been a while since your cat visited our hospital, give us a call to schedule her appointment. If you need advice on making her appointment as stress-free as possible, please let us know. Your cat’s health is important to us, and we would be happy to help.