Regular check-ups for your cat are a great way to help prevent illness and catch health issues early, when they are easier to treat. A routine exam by a veterinarian can help keep kitty healthy and happy. The long-term benefits make the vet visit worthwhile for both of you.
When was the last time your kitty had a check-up? Don’t wait until she is sick to come see us.
Why bring your cat in for a check-up?
People have lots of reasons for not bringing their cats to us for check-ups. Let’s take a look at some of those reasons why not—and some of the reasons why you should schedule yearly veterinary exams or more frequent visits if you have an older cat.
#1. My cat lives indoors, so he/she doesn’t need shots.
Check-ups are about more than vaccinations. Regular visits help your vet get to know what is normal for your cat and to spot potential problems early. This can help you reduce the need for emergency visits.
- During a typical wellness visit, we will:
- Listen to kitty’s heart and lungs (a heart murmur can indicate heart disease)
- Feel for lumps, bumps or skin lesions that could be cancerous
- Check her ears for mites and other ear diseases
- Examine her eyes
- Check her mouth for tooth decay and gum disease
- Assess her body condition and weight
- Ask you if you have noticed any changes in your kitty’s eating, drinking, urinating or bowel habits
Routine blood tests can help provide assurance that your cat’s internal organs are working properly and can be an important tool in detecting thyroid, kidney or other problems before your kitty shows outward symptoms.
What about vaccinations? We may recommend certain vaccines or titers depending on your cat’s age and lifestyle. Your kitty may not need annual distemper vaccinations, but the law does require rabies vaccinations every one to three years. Cats are required to receive the vaccination even if they live indoors—in case they get outside or a bat or other potential rabies carrier gets inside your home. Rabies vaccinations can be waived in Pennsylvania if your kitty has certain medical conditions.
For cats (and dogs), Pennsylvania law requires:
- Initial vaccination for the kitten within 4 weeks of reaching 3 months of age
- A booster vaccine between 12 to 14 months after the initial vaccination
- Revaccination as directed by the vaccine manufacturer
#2. My cat seems healthy, and I don’t want to spend the money.
Unlike dogs, cats are very good at hiding how they feel when they are ill. A cat could be developing a health condition long before you notice that anything is wrong. These could include:
- Dental disease
- Kidney disease
- Overactive thyroid
As veterinarians, we are trained to spot changes or abnormalities that an owner may overlook. Annual exams and bloodwork can be lifesaving. The ability to detect many problems before symptoms are obvious allows us to take action before the disease has a chance to progress. Waiting until your kitty is very sick can turn out to be a costly choice. Advanced diseases can be more difficult—and more expensive—to treat.
Regular check-ups can help keep cats healthier. If we diagnose a health condition where treatment is not an option for you, we can often suggest alternatives that can help keep your kitty comfortable and maintain his quality of life.
#3. I don’t want to put my cat through a stressful experience.
We understand that anything out of your kitty’s routine might be stressful to him. We do everything possible to minimize that stress. If the waiting room is busy and boisterous, we will try to find a quiet room for you and your kitty to wait until we can see you.
If your cat is exceptionally nervous, we will give him time to relax while the vet tech takes a medical history.
Our vets know to take their time with the exam. We move slowly and deliberately to reduce the chance that he will be startled. We will speak softly and can lower the lights to reduce stress. If kitty is very fearful, we remove the top half of the carrier if possible and do the exam while he is still in it. If we have to do a blood test, we can draw blood from the hind leg while you are talking to, petting and soothing him. This procedure may be uncomfortable for a moment, but it gives us a lot of valuable information about your kitty’s health.
We use the lightest restraint possible in order to complete the exam. If your cat has front claws and is very agitated, we may recommend a light sedation to complete the exam safely and minimize his stress.
Also remember to be calm yourself. If you are stressed, your kitty will pick up on it.
How to get your cat to the vet’s office
My cat won’t get in the carrier. How am I supposed to get her to the office?
Many kitties are very timid about getting into a cat carrier. To make things easier on both of you, you can desensitize kitty to the carrier. It doesn’t have to be a fight. Here are some tips on getting your kitty into her travel crate from Sarah Wolf, a veterinary technician here at our clinic:
- Make the carrier a cozy spot. Don’t hide it away until it’s time to come see us. Keep the crate in plain view with a soft blanket or towel inside, so kitty sees it as a nice spot to sleep or hide instead of a big scary box. Shop around until you find a crate—soft sided or hard sided—that is large enough for her to stand up and turn around comfortably.
- Try feeding her in the carrier: Keep the door open or place treats in the back. Do this often, and she will start to associate the crate with something positive.
- Never underestimate the power of catnip: Sprinkle catnip on a few toys or blankets and put them in the carrier to make entering it more enticing to your kitty. You can also use a pheromone spray like Feliway® on a blanket or towel to help calm her.
- Plan ahead: The night before your appointment, when you are getting ready for bed and your cat is calm, confine her to one room. That way, you don’t have to search high and low the next morning. Kitties always seem to know when it’s time to go!
- Put kitty in the carrier—technique #1: To make it easier, place the crate on a table or other elevated surface with the door or top open. Pick kitty up and face her toward the opening. Sometimes if the only way out of your arms is into the carrier, she will go right in. Placing a few treats inside may help—but don’t overdo the food, or your kitty might get carsick.
- Put kitty in the carrier—technique #2: If technique #1 does not work, place the carrier on the floor with the open door facing up. Holding your kitty with one arm, use the other hand to hold her rear feet together. (Most cats use their rear feet to push against the top to avoid being placed in the crate.) Lower her into the carrier.
- Travel tips: Once kitty is in the carrier, speak softly and reassure her. Sometimes placing a blanket or towel over the carrier so that it is dark inside has a calming effect. Place a towel on the floor of the carrier to help keep your cat clean in case she eliminates. Secure the carrier in the car using a seatbelt. Otherwise, the crate can roll over during the drive and become a projectile if you happen to brake suddenly.
- Once you arrive: Keep kitty in the carrier at all times while waiting for your appointment. It’s safer and less stressful for her.
What other times should I bring my cat in for a check-up?
We like to see our feline patients for regularly scheduled visits at least once a year. Sometimes, however, your cat will have a pressing medical problem that should not wait. For following symptoms, call us immediately at 215-379-1677:
- Any change in eating, drinking, urinating or defecating habits
- Increased aggression
- Labored breathing
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Sudden blindness (bumping into furniture, etc.)
- Unsuccessful attempts to eliminate — If your cat is trying to urinate and nothing comes out, he may have a blocked urethra. This is a medical emergency, particularly if your kitty is male.
- Urinating outside the litterbox
If you can’t reach us, contact your nearest veterinary emergency facility.
Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC)
301 Veterans Hwy., Levittown, Pa.; 215-750-7884
1114 S. Front St., Philadelphia, Pa. 267-800-1950
Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services
2010 Cabot Blvd. West, Langhorne, Pa.; 215-750-2774
- American Association of Feline Practitioners. Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian.
- ASPCA. Cat Care Tips and Cat Health Library.
- Check out the articles at left on insurance, allergies and nutrition
- Browse Resources. Our library has links to articles on everything from acupuncture to parasite prevention, training and vaccinations and titers.
- Read our newsletter with tips on pet care, training, and more, along with “Ask a Vet” and information on adoptable pets.
- Just ask! Our veterinarians and staff are always willing to take the time to answer your questions. If you suspect that your kitty is ill, do not hesitate to call!