Your feline friend’s healthcare plan must continuously evolve to keep up with his growth and lifestyle. Your feline buddy might seem self-sufficient, but he needs you to help uncover any pain and discomfort that he could be hiding. Your veterinarian is trained to spot clues to your cat’s health, so annual or bi-annual checkups are key to staying ahead of potential risks.
Your cat’s life has four distinct stages.
Kitten: Birth to 1 year
Young adult: 1 to 6 years
Mature adult: 7 to 10 years
Senior: > 10 years
Seeing the veterinarian every 6 to 12 months is key at every age.
Veterinary teams want to see kittens more frequently than older cats to develop personalized vaccine protocols, prepare for spaying or neutering, set a foundation for appropriate behavior and exercise, and monitor for congenital health problems. Young adults should receive continuing preventive care, including appropriate protection against fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites. The veterinary team will address behavior as well as monitoring growth and development, including recommending a nutrition plan to maintain a healthy weight and mitigate the risk of osteoarthritis, diabetes, breathing problems, and other future problems.
Veterinary visits for mature adult cats focus on maintaining good health through regular screening and testing for the early detection of age-related diseases like hyperthyroidism or kidney disease, as well as monitoring weight, muscle condition, and mobility.
When a cat enters his senior years, the veterinary team uses regular blood work and other health screenings to identify any decline in health or quality of life and recommend adjustments in activity level and nutrition as needed.
Dogs have no secrets, but cats tend to hide their discomfort and displeasure when they’re not feeling well. Regular veterinary visits will reveal their true condition. Are they peeing outside the litterbox out of spite? Nope. Maybe they’re stressed; they have an infection; their kidneys aren’t working well; or they simply can’t climb into the litterbox. Are they suddenly eating less just to be picky? Nope. Their teeth hurt; their stomach doesn’t feel right; or they have a fever. Your vet can unravel your cat’s secrets and get him back to his spunky self.
Parasites like roundworms, fleas, and ticks can spread diseases to the people in your home. Protect your cat and your human family—especially the young, old, and immunocompromised—by using regular parasite preventives. Also, avoid feeding your cat raw meat, which can spread harmful bacteria throughout your home.
Your cat won’t pee outside the litterbox or vomit on your bed because he disapproves of your life decisions. The veterinarian can do tests and look for clues as to why he’s behaving this way and chances are, it’s because he isn’t feeling well.
Behavior problems are some of the top reasons that cats are relinquished to shelters. When you start to notice things like urinating or defecating outside the litter box or aggression with other cats, that is the time to see the veterinarian, who can connect you with resources including behavior specialists if needed to keep the bond intact between your cat and your family.
While core vaccines such as the rabies vaccine are recommended for all cats, other vaccines such as feline leukemia are given selectively based on lifestyle. Your veterinarian will discuss your cat’s risk factors to determine any appropriate noncore vaccines.
Most cats have some level of dental disease by age 3, which can lead to chronic pain and infection. During every stage of your cat’s life, your veterinarian evaluates oral health, but the best prevention includes regular at-home dental care in addition to periodic professional dental cleanings under anesthesia.
The misconception that a male cat who is straining in the litterbox is constipated is frightfully dangerous. Take him to the vet right now! Young male cats commonly strain to pass urine because their urethra is blocked with crystals and mucous, but they RARELY struggle with feces. If he’s straining, pacing, and yowling near the litterbox in the middle of the night, take him to the veterinarian immediately, as this can quickly become a life-threatening emergency.
Veterinarians must maintain a medical facility, provide an inventory of medications and have a staff trained in caring for pets. It is costly to maintain a pet in good health. As the caretaker of a living animal, it is your responsibility to provide the resources required. In the case of serious illness or surgery, I highly recommend health insurance. There are many different plans available, and you can select one that meets your financial needs. In addition, there are credit companies that can assist.
Dr. Lamb is the Veterinarian at the Manchester Animal Hospital.