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By Dr. Alison Birken, DVM
Today is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, and as a small animal veterinarian, I cannot think of a better way to spread awareness and learn about the importance of veterinary wellness visits and checkups for overall cat health.
A recent study showed that more than half the cats in the US have not been seen by a veterinarian within the year for a wellness visit. But the fact is that detecting cat illnesses is way more challenging than seeing signs of sickness in dogs.
Many people do not realize their beloved cat is sick or something is wrong until it is too late, which is why it is crucial have them evaluated routinely by your veterinarian.
Let’s celebrate National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day and give your cat the best chance at a long, healthy life.
Why Are Some Pet Parents Hesitant to Bring Their Cats to the Vet for Routine Checkups?
Cats are high-stress animals and do not like change in their routines. Many times, placing cats in a cat carrier, driving with them in a car and having them evaluated by your cat veterinarian can be very stressful for all involved. Many pet parents feel that it is “too stressful” on their pets to bring them into a vet hospital unless it is crucial.
Some people also believe that because cats are very independent animals, they do not need the care and attention that dogs do. Do not let this characteristic of cats fool you. Independence should not equate to less attention or lack of wellness visits.
Another reason why cats don’t see the vet as often is because cats are known to hide symptoms of an illness until they cannot anymore. This unique characteristic is actually a survival tactic. As a prey animal, cats instinctually do not want to show any sign of weakness or illness. They will act as if they are healthy and strong to keep themselves from looking vulnerable.
Far too often, it is not until cat diseases progress to life-threatening stages that pet parents will recognize that something is not right with their cat.
Unfortunately, many times the disease or illness may be too far along to treat, which is why it is imperative to detect and diagnose diseases early so that treatment and preventative measures can be taken.
Why Routine Wellness Visits and Checkups With Your Veterinarian Are Essential
Since our pets cannot verbally tell us what is wrong, it is important to be diligent about their routine health care. This is doubly important when it comes to cats because of their secretive nature when it comes to their health.
To help keep your cat’s health in tip-top shape, regular veterinary visits and checkups are your best defense.
Veterinarians and veterinary technicians are trained to see and detect cat health issues and are able to observe subtle changes in your cat’s health that you may not even notice.
Your veterinarian is also able to perform bloodwork panels that can give helpful insight into the health or your cat’s entire body and organ functioning. These bloodwork panels are a vital part of annual checkups. They enable veterinarians to catch and treat disease early, before it can become a serious cat health issue.
The veterinarian’s physical examination gives an overall idea about a cat’s health, but bloodwork will better detect the presence of certain diseases.
What Are Some Clinical Signs That Should Motivate You to Take Your Cat to the Vet?
Cats like daily routines and do not like to deviate from their regular day-to-day schedules. Any change in their typical activities and behavior warrants a trip to the vet.
One of the first signs that pet parents will notice when their cats are sick is a change in their routine. If your cat is exhibiting any of these clinical signs, I recommend having them evaluated by your veterinarian:
- Change in appetite
- Sleeping in different spots
- Respiratory Distress
- Changes in litter box habits
- Any change from their normal day-to-day routine
How Can You Make a Trip to the Vet Less Stressful for Your Cat?
Do not take the cat carrier out until you are ready to place your cat in the carrier. Cats are very smart little creatures. They know the carrier means leaving the home. Most cats will hide the moment they see the carrier.
To help create a more positive association with the cat carrier, try to find a cat carrier that works for them and help them build a positive relationship with it.
See if your veterinarian makes house calls. Many vets offer house calls as an additional service. Cats are routine animals and do not like to leave their homes. At-home visits may decrease the stress of transport.
If your cat gets very stressed and nervous, ask about a mild sedative or prescription behavior and anxiety medication for pets you can give to them before their visit. Many times, this is enough to take a bit of the edge off.
Always bring your cat in an enclosed carrier to the veterinary hospital. Even the most social of cats can get scared. Cats tend to jump and run when they are scared. A barking dog or a loud waiting room is not the place for a cat to be sitting in your lap.
Many vets will have cats taken immediately into an exam room when they arrive to avoid the stress of the loud noises from other pets. Inquire with your veterinarian whether this may be an option. You can also look into finding cat-friendly veterinary practices that have earned certifications to learn to make cats more comfortable during vet visits.
Cats are adorable, unique and funny little characters, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the best cat care that we can.
Go out and celebrate National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your cat may not think you are celebrating them, but you are providing them with the best chance of being a happy, healthy cat.