Veterinary Care for Cats: What to Expect Over the Years
Cats are America’s most popular household pet, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. They are also extremely stoic, rarely showing signs of pain or illness. This doesn’t mean you should skip your cat’s yearly or semi-annual exam, because routine veterinary visits can help prevent many diseases and unwanted behaviors. With each life stage of your cat, you can expect some common discussions to take place with our veterinary health care team.
Kitten veterinary visits are key to establishing a relationship with our veterinary hospital and getting a head start on preventive care. You can expect to discuss litter training, infectious disease testing, diet, vaccinations, and deworming, among other topics. Come prepared with questions, especially if you haven’t previously cared for a cat.
Vaccinations are one of your kitten’s most important procedures, and timing is everything. Typically, kitten vaccines are started at 8 weeks of age and continued every three to four weeks until 16 weeks of age. Most kittens will receive a series of vaccines against common respiratory viruses, distemper, leukemia, and rabies. Starting these vaccinations on time and receiving boosters at the proper intervals are essential to ensure your kitten has an adequate immune response.
Kittens are typically tested for two important feline infectious diseases, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This blood test must be performed, and yield a negative result, prior to vaccinating for FeLV.
Kittens are generally spayed or neutered at around 6 months of age. You can expect your spayed pet to stay in the hospital for one to two days and be sent home with a cone collar, pain medications, and instructions for rest and incision monitoring.
Ensure your kitten is properly identified with a microchip, which can be inserted as an outpatient procedure, but is often performed while your pet is under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery. Microchipping is recommended for indoor cats as well, as escape is always a possibility.
Adult cats are generally between the ages of 2 and 8 years, and should be examined by our team at least yearly. Common discussions in the exam room during this stage involve dental care, weight concerns, and vaccine boosters.
We will likely recommend an anesthetic dental assessment and cleaning for your cat at some point in her adult life. As with people, cats have oral bacteria that cause plaque, which builds up and creates tartar on the teeth. The tartar will inevitably accumulate and can only be eliminated by teeth-scaling, because brushing alone will not get rid of tartar. Cats are prone to painful oral diseases, such as gingivitis, stomatitis, and resorptive lesions, that typically require X-rays and tooth extraction. Often, these diseases go unnoticed by owners, since many cats will continue to eat and behave normally.
Adult cats often gain weight, and excess weight can lead to chronic diseases. Minimize your cat’s risk of becoming overweight by feeding portioned meals of high-quality adult cat food, playing with him regularly, and providing a water fountain to encourage drinking. Give him treats sparingly.
Senior cats are considered those over the age of 9 and should be examined by our team semi-annually. Since illness is more common in older pets, more frequent examinations are necessary to detect early disease.
While many cats are prone to becoming overweight, our older feline friends may lose weight secondarily to a chronic disease such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, or chronic kidney disease. Consider investing in a baby or pet scale to monitor your cat’s weight, and call our office if you notice weight loss.
Many commonly diagnosed chronic diseases can be detected on routine blood work, so we may recommend regular screening.
You know your cat best, but remember that disease signs can often be hard to detect in our furry friends, and monitoring your cat closely for changes in appetite, behavior, urination, vomiting, diarrhea, or lameness is vital. If no signs are evident, routine preventive examinations are still essential for your cat’s good health. Contact us to schedule an appointment.