Keeping your cat healthy is vital to give it the best quality and quantity of life - and your vet will play a central role not only in treating it when your cat is ill but also advising you on the best preventative healthcare measures to keep it in tip top condition. Because cats are so adept at hiding any signs of ill health, it is easy for even the most attentive cat owner to miss subtle or early indications of illness. It is therefore crucial to take your cat for regular annual check -ups with your vet to make sure nothing goes unnoticed.
When choosing a vet, make sure the practice is reasonably close to where you live. You will not want to travel far in the event of an emergency. Also, ask other cat owners for their recommendations. Some cat friendly veterinary practices have special cat - only clinics which are very beneficial for cats that are afraid of dogs in the waiting room! Gather as much information as you can before choosing which vet to go to. Below is a rundown of the types of regular advice and treatment you might expect to get from your vet.
A general health check-up should be made at least once a year (more frequently in senior cats or those with specific medical conditions). Regular check-ups are vital to ensure that your cat is healthy, and that it is free from disease. A general check-up includes listening to your cat’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to detect heart murmurs or rhythm problems, palpating the abdomen to ensure no abnormal lumps or pain, examining the skin and coat for parasites, wounds or lumps and checking eyes, ears and mouth carefully. If you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s health, write them down in advance of your appointment and go through the list with your vet at the time of your cat’s check-up.
Regular (usually yearly) vaccinations are essential to prevent diseases such as Cat Flu (Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus), Feline Infectious Enteritis (feline parvovirus/ feline panleukopenia virus) and Feline Leukaemia Virus. Your vet will advise you if your cat also requires vaccinating against Feline Chlamydophilosis (a bacterium that causes conjunctivitis). Vaccines for other diseases may be recommended depending on where you live, or where you plan to take your cat to an area of Europe as a necessity when applying for a Pet Passport.
Fleas, ticks and worms
Prevention of parasites should be discussed in detail at your cat’s annual check-up. Internal parasites such as roundworms are not only unpleasant for your cat but some can also affect humans. Fleas lay eggs which develop into larvae and live in your carpets at home. It is therefore in your interest as well as your cat’s to follow your vet’s advice on how to prevent parasites.
Neutering your Cat
Unless you intend to breed from your cat then neutering/spaying is the best step to prevent unwanted pregnancy and some health problems. If you have a new kitten, or have inherited an adopted cat, you should discuss the best time for neutering as soon as possible with your vet. Neutered cats often have an increased appetite so can be prone to weight gain if they are overfed. Discuss the best diet to give your neutered cat with your vet or veterinary nurse.
Alterations in your cat’s behaviour such as inappropriate urination or increased aggression can indicate underlying disease or a behavioural problem so discuss any behavioural changes with your vet.
Vet checks are the best way of uncovering dental issues, as cats are very good at hiding tooth problems from their owners. Dental disease is quite common in cats, especially as they get older and tooth problems can be very painful and may even lead to general health issues so must be dealt with promptly by your vet. You should also discuss tooth brushing at your cat’s annual check-up. Most cats will tolerate tooth brushing and this is the best way of maintaining good dental hygiene and sweet smelling breath!
Weight and body condition
Obesity is a common problem in cats so weigh your cat and discuss it body condition at it check-up. If necessary you can get advice on a diet plan and ways to increase your cat’s activity or perhaps join a weight loss scheme run by your veterinary practice, if available. Equally if your cat has lost weight since it was last weighed this could be a sign of a health problem.
If your cat is getting older, more frequent check-ups are recommended. These are your opportunities to discuss any concern however minor with your vet. In addition to the usual once over, your vet may want to check your cat’s blood pressure and may even advise blood and urine screening tests. Tell your vet about any changes in your cat’s food and water intake and activity level. As with people, senior cats can suffer from various organ system problems, osteoarthritis, vision and hearing loss and even memory loss or dementia leading to behavioural changes. Luckily, many problems can be successfully managed with medication or simple changes to your cat’s lifestyle and the earlier any problems are detected, the greater the chance of finding a successful treatment.