cats need vet visits

by Kerry McKinney, DVM

Mark your calendars: August 22 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day!

Prevention is the best medicine

According to a recent survey, “83% of cats visit the veterinarian before their 1st birthday, but over 50% don’t return until they become sick or are in pain.”

This means we’re missing the best opportunity to provide preventive and behavioral health care and guidance on nutrition and wellness. And those factors significantly influence both the quality of life and lifespan of our feline friends.

Cats age more rapidly than people. Missing a few years of exams can be the human equivalent of a decade or more without any attention to dental care, healthy body weight, vision, comfort, appropriate elimination, behavioral, and other health concerns.

A leading cause of relinquishment of cats to animal shelters is inappropriate elimination. Unfortunately, most owners wait several months before seeking veterinary care. Many are out of patience and considering euthanasia when they do come to us. Feline inappropriate elimination is a multi-factorial topic for another day. However, suffice to say cats do not vindictively eliminate in shoes, sinks, potted plants, and laundry baskets. If your cat isn’t using the litter pan appropriately, something is medically, environmentally, or behaviorally amiss. Exploration with the help of your veterinarian can be life-saving.

Visiting the vet doesn’t have to be traumatic

One of the most frequently cited reasons cat custodians give for infrequent vet visits is stress for them and their cats. Though known for their curiosity, cats are creatures of habit and they’re definitely not early adopters. They’re bound to be suspicious of a carrier that shows up from the basement or garage only once a year (or when they feel poorly). Instead, place the carrier in the home days or even weeks before the expected travel date. Put treats inside, and use Feliway pheromone spray in the carrier so your cat develops a positive association with it. If your cat seems especially upset by travel, talk to your veterinarian about trying oral gabapentin prior to a visit.

cats need vet visits cat carrier

Allowing your cat to get used to the carrier before your vet visit can make a huge difference!

AAAH veterinarians are committed to your cat’s good health, and we work to minimize the effects of stress and fear. We have dedicated feline waiting and exam areas and a small scale in each room so your cat can stay with you during the initial assessment and exam. Our Fear Free techniques help your cat feel safe and comfortable. We employ gentle handling and quiet voices, reward our patients with treats, and provide warm towels to hide in.

Cats are masters at hiding illness

A careful history with annual exams and regular lab work provides a baseline and helps us notice trends. Advancements in blood testing mean that we can now detect as little as a 25% decrease in kidney function (previous tests required a 75% decrease in function before becoming abnormal). This early indicator can be detected years before clinical signs of disease are obvious. Early intervention with diet adjustments and medication can prolong a good quality of life and keep our beloved senior kitties comfortably purring along.

Start planning your vet visit

For optimal health, cats (both indoor and outdoor) need annual visits to the vet. So get your cat carrier out today, add a snuggly blanket, some cat nip, and daily treats… and in a week or so you may have a cat happily curled up inside, just in time for National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. (Although it’s really O.K. to come in any time: as our motto says, we’re always here!)

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.