Is it Time to Visit the Cat Doctor?
All cats need regular check-ups at certain intervals depending upon their age and overall health. In general, older cats, and those with pre-existing illness need more frequent examinations than younger, healthier felines. Just like you and I, your cat will need to see a cat doctor regularly. Below we will discuss when it is time to bring your cat to the vet.
Even seemingly healthy cats need to be examined on a regular basis. This is because cats are extremely skilled at hiding pain and illness. In the wild, cats that are injured or ill instinctually hide their symptoms to protect themselves from predators. Because cats have this strong instinct, many owners do not notice any signs of illness until their cat is already pretty sick.
Preventive care exams
Kittens need a series of exams and vaccinations every 2-4 weeks. Early on in your cat’s life is a great time to establish your family’s regular cat doctor. The vaccinations usually begin at about 6 weeks of age and continue until they are around 16 weeks old. Regular exams spot problems early, and ensure that your kitten is developing normally. A series of vaccinations are needed to protect your kitten from disease, until he is older and his immune system has time to develop. Multiple stool samples will need to be examined for evidence of intestinal parasites, and your kitty will be treated if any are found.
Newly acquired adult cats should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as you can to rule out disease, especially if you already have cats at home. All new kittens and adult cats should be tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline AIDS (FIV). This can be done quickly in the hospital, using only a few drops of blood.
Young adult cats need yearly exams to check for signs of early disease. These exams also give the veterinarian the opportunity to update vaccines based on your cat’s lifestyle, address any concerns he may find on the exam, and allow time for you to ask any questions you may have about your furry friend.
Cats older than 7 years are considered to be “seniors” and need more frequent exams than their younger counterparts. In addition to the external physical exam, your veterinarian may recommend an “internal physical exam” consisting of additional tests like blood pressure measurement, a blood chemistry panel, blood cell analysis, urinalysis, and stool examination. These are done to look for evidence of health concerns that are common in older cats, such as diabetes, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and cancer.
These tests will be recommended even if your cat does not appear to be sick. Many illnesses have only subtle symptoms in the early stages, so sometimes signs of disease are missed, or they can be interpreted as changes due to old age. Nearly 25% of these senior screening tests reveal hidden early illnesses in pets that did not have any obvious symptoms. This allows for problems to be found and addressed as early as possible, when they are likely to be easier and less expensive to manage.
Urgent care and emergency visits
Some cat owners are lucky, and never have to bring their cat for an emergency visit, but most cats will have to be treated for an illness or injury at some point in their life. Your regular cat doctor should be able to either address any emergency situations themselves, or recommend a good veterinarian in your area.
These are some conditions that will need treatment right away:
- limping for more than 24 hours
- seizures, wobbliness
- multiple bouts of vomiting or diarrhea in a short period of time
- refusing to eat 2 or more meals
- chronic vomiting or diarrhea
- sudden lethargy
- weight loss
- trauma – hit by car, fall from height
- loss of limb function
- straining or unable to urinate or defecate
- difficulty breathing
If you are unsure whether you have an emergency situation, it is always better to be cautious and have your kitty checked over right away, rather than wait.
Emergency situations are stressful, so it does help to as prepared as possible. You can make a pet first aid kit for your cat, and leave it in an easily accessible place. If your regular veterinarian does not provide emergency services after-hours, be sure to ask for a recommendation for an emergency clinic in the area, and keep their contact information saved in your phone.