According to the 2017-2018 edition of the AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, at the end of 2016, 25% of American households had one or more cats, with more than 58 million cats owned. Or, given the housecat’s reputation for aloofness, perhaps we should say that 58 million cats allowed 25% of American households the honor of naming them and feeding them.
Alarmingly, however, the same study revealed that more than half of those households did not get veterinary care for their cat. We understand that bringing a cat to the veterinary clinic can be stressful, but all cats, including indoor-only cats, should be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.
Cats are masters at hiding pain and illness. Consider these statistics:
- According to the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, 50% to 90% of cats over age 4 have some sort of dental disease.
- X-rays showed evidence of arthritis in 90% of cats over age 12.
These are two reasons why scheduling wellness visits for your cat is imperative. Early detection of pain and illness will prolong, and improve the quality of, your beloved cat’s life.
Vaccines for cats
Gone are the days when every pet got every available vaccination every year. We know now that vaccinated dogs and cats are protected against some diseases for more than a year, and protocols have changed to avoid over-vaccinating. But, even though your cat doesn’t need a vaccine every year, you should not miss his yearly exams (or twice yearly, if he is over 7).
Even indoor cats need core vaccinations, including rabies. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It is almost always fatal, and the vaccine is mandated by law. Other core feline vaccines include panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper), feline calicivirus, and feline viral rhinotracheitis. These vaccinations are combined into one vaccine, called the FVRCP vaccine.
The other available feline vaccines should be given on a case-by-case basis, depending on your cat’s lifestyle. Call us to check your cat’s vaccination status and to talk about which vaccines would be best for him.
Parasite control for cats
Cats are fastidious groomers, but they still cannot avoid external parasites, such as fleas and ticks. Your cat doesn’t need to venture outdoors to be susceptible to pests—flea infestations can wreak havoc on indoor pets, as well.
External parasites can make your cat miserable, causing skin irritation and itching. They can also transmit potentially deadly diseases.
Both indoor and outdoor cats should also be protected from internal parasites, such as heartworms and intestinal parasites. Let’s discuss the many parasite-control options at your cat’s next clinic visit.
Common diseases of cats
In addition to arthritis and dental disease, the following conditions are common in our feline friends:
- Obesity — More than half of the cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Obesity contributes to arthritis pain and predisposes cats to endocrine diseases, such as diabetes.
- Hyperthyroidism — An overactive thyroid causes weight loss despite a voracious appetite, and increases nighttime activity, such as howling.
- Chronic kidney disease — As cats age, their kidneys may stop functioning properly; cats drink a lot of water and urinate large amounts, and their kidneys become less able to filter toxins from the blood.
- Diabetes — Increased blood sugar levels cause increased appetite, increased water intake, and increased urination.
Let us examine your cat to determine his body condition score, which will help us determine if he is overweight. If necessary, we can create a diet to get him back to his fighting weight. His examination will also include routine blood work to check for diseases, because the earlier we find a disease, the earlier we can start treatment and the better your cat’s prognosis.
Stress-free visits for cats
We understand that veterinary visits are stressful for both you and your cat, so call us for advice on making your cat’s visit easier for you both. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make the carrier a happy place — Don’t hide your cat’s carrier until it’s time to visit our clinic. Instead, leave the carrier out with the door open and place comfortable bedding sprayed with pheromones (Feliway), treats, and toys inside. This will help your cat develop positive associations with the carrier.
- Come up with transportation alternatives — If your cat still despises the carrier, try an alternative, like putting him in a pillowcase.
- Shield him from the stress — Cover your cat’s carrier with a blanket so he can’t see potential stressors (like other animals in our lobby).
- Try medication — Some pets become so stressed they may need help calming down with medications. We can prescribe an appropriate medication that you can give your cat before the visit to make it easier for both of you.
If we haven’t seen your cat in more than a year, give our clinic a call so we can get him back on track and ensure he’s healthy.