Feline Wellness

Why should your cat come to see us yearly?

Cats need regular veterinary care just like dogs do.  Examinations are recommended once a year.  Cats age faster than you do, so an annual exam for them is similar to you visiting your doctor or dentist every four to five years.  Prevention is always safer and less expensive than treatment, so an annual exam is a great start!

What should you expect during your cat’s annual examination?

One of our veterinarians will review your cat’s previous health records.  We will discuss medications your pet is currently receiving, including topical flea prevention.  We will note weight and age changes since the previous exam.  The physical examination will include checking the teeth, mouth, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, skin and hair coat changes, and palpating the abdomen for any changes, among other things.  We will ask questions about appetite and thirst, litter box habits, and behavior changes, which can all provide clues to determine if your cat is at risk or in early stages of a disease.  A recommendation of appropriate vaccinations will be made to help prevent disease, especially if your cat is determined to be at risk.  In Washington County, Rabies vaccination is required for all cats (and dogs) over 4 months of age.  We will recommend testing or treatments based on your cat’s examination findings if there is a problem.  You will gather valuable information during this discussion in order to help you learn more about your cat’s health.

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 Is your cat sick and you don’t know it?

Cats are very skilled at hiding diseases, especially in the early stages.  Learn the top 10 subtle signs of illness in cats and why discussing these changes during an exam is important for your cat.

1. Inappropriate elimination behavior

  • A cat urinating inappropriately can indicate a number of medical disorders such as kidney disease, a urinary tract infection, urinary blockage, diabetes, arthritis, among many others.  Not treating some of these conditions can be life-threatening, so it is best to address them early. 

2. Changes in interaction

  • Changes in the way your cat interacts with you, other family members, or other pets in the house could also signal signs of disease, pain, fear, or anxiety. 

3. Changes in activity

  • Many medical conditions can lead to a decrease or increase in activity, particularly as cats age. 

4. Changes in sleeping habits

  • The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping.  Much of this time is more napping, and your cat should respond quickly to stimuli, such as you walking into the room or petting your cat.  If there is a change in your cat’s sleeping patterns, this could indicate an underlying disease.

5. Changes in food and water consumption

  • Most cats are not picky eaters, so decreased food intake can be a sign of dental disease, cancer, or many other problems.  An increase in food intake, sometimes noted by begging, can signal diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and many others. 
  • Changes in water consumption can sometimes be difficult to observe, but can indicate many types of disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid disease. 
  • If food and water intake is questionable, you can measure the food and water given, and then re-measure what is left at the end of the day to get a more accurate idea as to how much is being consumed. 

6. Unexplained weight loss or gain

  • Sometimes, changes in weight are not always correlated with changes in appetite.  Nausea, thyroid disease, and diabetes are three types of disease that can cause weight loss in cats.  Overweight cats are more at risk of developing diabetes and joint problems, so it is important that if weight gain is observed, to address it early to help prevent these problems. 

7. Changes in grooming

  • An increase in your cat grooming itself can indicate a skin or behavioral problem, while a decrease in grooming could be a sign of pain, arthritis, obesity, or other underlying disease.  You may notice your cat becoming matted or the hair clumping together more, especially near the tail.  

8. Signs of stress

  • Despite the relaxed and easy life of a cat, your cat can still become stressed.  Often, boredom and lifestyle changes are common stressors in cats.  Stressed cats can spend more or less time grooming, more time hiding and not interacting with family members, can change their eating patterns, among many others.  Changes in your family, such as adding a new pet, should be done gradually since cats are so easily stressed, and we can discuss this with you to make these types of transitions successful. 

9. Changes in vocalization

  • An increase in vocalization with your cat can be a sign of thyroid disease or high blood pressure.  Cats will vocalize more if they are in pain or afraid.  A routine examination will help to determine if your cat is at risk.

10. Bad breath

  • Up to 70% of cats have dental disease by age 3.  It is important to have your cat’s teeth checked regularly to help prevent dental disease from an early age.  More severe dental disease can be painful and may warrant dental cleanings or oral surgery, so prevention is key. 

Many of these signs are treatable and can help to improve your cat’s overall quality of life.  It is important to address them early can prevent your cat from suffering later in life.

 How do I get my cat to the vet without a hassle?

Taking your cat to the veterinary office can be a stressful and difficult task.  Here are some tips to help make it stress-free.

1.  Buying a carrier

  • Carriers with a door on top are easier to place your cat inside.
  • Carriers with a top and side opening have additional versatility.
  • If the carrier has a removable top, your cat may feel more secure remaining inside the carrier during the exam.

2.  Practice at home

  • Leave the carrier out in your house for a few days before the appointment.
  • Put treats, toys, a towel or blanket inside to encourage your cat to explore the carrier before the appointment.
  • If your cat wanders in the carrier on their own, reward and praise your cat.

3.  Car rides

  • Always put your cat in a carrier while in your car- this is safer for you and your cat.
  • A synthetic feline pheromone (such as Feliway) used in your carrier may help to calm your cat.  MAVH uses this technique in our exam rooms.
  • Drape a towel or blanket over the carrier if your cat gets motion sickness.
  • Take your cat for a few short car rides to help familiarize your cat with travel.
  • Do not feed your cat a few hours before your appointment to help prevent nausea.
  • Reward your cat after successful car trips with positive attention and treats.

4.  At the clinic

  • Speak softly, because if you remain calm, your cat may as well.
  • Open the carrier once in the exam room to allow your cat to come out and explore if wanted.  Always ask a staff member when this is appropriate first.

5.  Back at home

  • Place the carrier safely inside your home.
  • Open the door of the carrier and allow your cat to come out on their own.  Never dump your cat out of the carrier to prevent fear once at home.
  • Reward good behavior once home with treats.

For more information, visit https://www.youtube.com/embed/-A-DahupUmk?autoplay=1 to see these tips in action!

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