August 22nd is National Take Your Cat to the Vet day. This is a great reminder that all cats need routine wellness exams at least once a year. For older cats that routine exam should happen every six months. As your cat ages or if she has specific health concerns, your veterinarian will recommend a customized schedule for you.
As much as we love our cats, it’s sad to realize that they don’t receive the appropriate amount of veterinary care. Even though cats outnumber dogs as the most popular companion animal, the number of cats taken in for veterinary care has declined. Too many people are under the mistaken belief that cats are independent and therefore don’t require the same level of medical care as dos. Just because you don’t “see” something wrong with your cat doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential medical problem going on internally. Cats are also very stoic and so they’re good at hiding pain. You may not realize that your kitty has been injured or is suffering from a stomach ailment or urinary problem until she has reached a point of severe suffering.
The Importance of Wellness Exams
This is a great way to catch something early, before it becomes a major problem. This can save your cat needless suffering, increase the chance of a full recovery and can save money on long-term medical costs.
A routine wellness exam is also a great opportunity for preventive care. During an exam your veterinarian may be alerted to a potential problem and advise you on any recommended change in diet, medication or lifestyle. Routine blood work and diagnostic testing can catch potential problems in their earliest stages.
There are many reasons why cat parents may be reluctant to take their cats in for wellness exams. Cost is high on the list but another reason that is often cited is that it’s too stressful for the cat and the human family member. It may be very difficult to get the cat in the carrier at home and she may become fractious while at the clinic (and even after returning home). Fear of stressing the cat out or fear of handling a fractious cat are absolutely legitimate concerns but you can’t let that be the reason for neglecting to provide medical care. If your cat gets stressed out at the thought of being in the carrier then it’s time to do some behavior modification work to help her become more comfortable with travel. This process is important to do anyway because there may be times when you have to transport your cat and it shouldn’t be stressful.
If your cat becomes reactive at the veterinary clinic there are some steps you can take to limit that anxiety and make the visit a little easier on her. Your veterinarian and staff can also make the visit less stressful. Talk to your veterinarian about what can be done to make the exam easier on your cat. More and more veterinarians are becoming aware of the need to have a more cat-friendly practice and they have separate waiting room areas for cats, a cats-only exam room, and a staff trained in low-stress cat handling.
If you have concerns about the way your veterinarian or his/her staff work with your cat, have an honest discussion with them. If you still feel concerned, look for a cat-friendly practice in your area.
Make the most of your visit with the veterinarian by bringing up any changes you’ve noticed in your cat’s behavior, appetite, activity level, grooming habits, interaction with others, water intake or litter box habits. Something that you may not think is very significant could actually be the start of a potential medical problem.
If you’re bringing more than one cat to the veterinary clinic at a time, it may be helpful to write down any questions or concerns you have about each cat beforehand so you don’t forget to mention something.
Take a Video
If your cat displays a particular behavior, has a periodic cough or exhibits anything that may not be displayed at the veterinary clinic you can always whip out your smart phone and capture the behavior on video. This can be a valuable tool for your veterinarian so she/he can see what is exactly going on.
Quality of Life
A current problem or the possibility of a potential health issue detected during a wellness exam can make a huge difference in your cat’s quality of life. Regardless of whether your cat is the most pampered indoor kitty or an outdoor street-smart cat who appears more than capable of taking care of herself, EVERY cat needs veterinary care.
Need More Information?
If you don’t know how to find a cat-friendly practice in your area, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has a search feature on their website.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.