Why your cat should see the vet, too

Ask most dog owners, and they’ll tell you their dog’s weight, age, date of last vet visit, any skin or digestive issues their dog has, and – whether you asked for it or not – the last time the dog pooped. Ask more than half of cat owners the same questions and they might be able to tell you their cat’s name and age.

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According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), a study conducted by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners found 52 percent of cat owners avoid regular vet visits. The study also found half as many cats receive annual exams as dogs and that:

  • 81 percent thought their cat was in excellent health
  • 53 percent said their cat had never been sick or injured
  • 63 percent of cats in cat-only households never go outside, and their owners assume they are not susceptible to disease

This isn’t to say cat owners love their pets less than dog owners. Rather, the majority (81 percent) of cat owners tend to think cats, especially indoor cats, are self-sufficient, and don’t require as much medical attention as dogs. This line of thinking, combined with a cat’s instinct to rarely show signs of illness before their condition becomes dire, has led to the low numbers of cats at the vet’s office.

If you’re one of the many cat owners who hasn’t stepped foot in a vet’s office since your fluffy friend was a kitten, here’s why it’s time to set up an annual visit.

Cats often hide their symptoms and their symptoms are easy to miss.
In some ways, the idea that cats are independent and self-sufficient is not without reason – cats tend to hide any signs of illness.

“Cats are really good at hiding the fact that they’re sick,” says Kathryn Smith, a former veterinary technician, veterinary hospital administrator, and practice manager. “I used to see so many cat owners who said, ‘Oh he was fine until just this week,’ when really the cat had been sick for a long time. They just didn’t realize the cat wasn’t well.”

Some symptoms are so gradual they’re hard to discern. An annual exam helps us catch potentially deadly diseases before they become out of control. We might pick up a heart murmur that allows us to manage your pet’s heart disease or small kidneys that may be a sign of chronic kidney disease.

What happens at an annual wellness exam?
The exam includes a nutritional consultation, dental evaluation, cardiac and pulmonary auscultation, a check for small or enlarged organs, a joint check, a skin and hair check, a behavioral consultation, a weight check, and a heartworm test.

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An annual exam helps you track changes in your cat’s condition. For instance, because weight loss or gain is gradual, a cat’s weight can change drastically before you notice if you aren’t making a regular note of the cat’s weight.

“The average cat weighs about ten pounds,” Smith said. “So if a cat loses a pound, that’s a tenth of its body weight, but it might not look like much. The heavier the cat is to begin with, the harder it is to notice a weight fluctuation, unless you’re tracking your cat’s weight regularly.”

Cats need preventive medications, too.
Even indoor-only cats get heartworms. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito that sneaks in through an open door or damaged screen to infect your cat. Signs of heartworm disease in cats are either very subtle or very dramatic, according to the American Heartworm Society.

“Cats don’t exhibit many symptoms of heartworms, and one of the symptoms is sudden death,” Smith said. Asthma-like symptoms may also be feline heartworm disease.  It’s vital to get your cat tested for heartworms, and to administer heartworm prevention monthly. Otherwise, you’re just leveraging the odds, hoping nothing bad happens. Cats need flea and tick prevention, too, if any pet in the house goes outside.

Cats should always be microchipped. Cats are also susceptible to other diseases, even if they never go outside. Your cat should be vaccinated against rabies as required by law. Additionally, if your cat ever makes it past your door, even briefly, or you have outdoor cats, your cat should also be vaccinated against feline distemper and upper respiratory vaccines. Outdoor cats should be tested for, and vaccinated against, the feline leukemia virus.

Even indoor-only cats need to be microchipped. In fact, Smith said, indoor cats in particular should be microchipped.

“If an indoor cat gets outside, it has no street smarts,” Smith said. “An indoor cat will go up to people because it knows people provide food, and if the cat isn’t microchipped and isn’t wearing a collar or tags – a lot of people don’t put tags on their indoor cats – then the chances of your cat returning home are slim.”

Of course, if you have an indoor/outdoor cat, microchipping is equally as important, as your cat regularly has opportunity to leave your yard.

Cat owners, it’s time to learn more about what’s going on with your fur baby. The best way to do that is with regular vet visits, but you should also keep tabs on your tabby yourself – is he eating normally? Has he lost or gained any weight? Is he acting lethargic or neglecting to groom himself?

Any out of the ordinary behavior is worth a vet visit, and even if your cat’s behavior seems perfectly ordinary, don’t put off a visit to the vet – it could save your cat’s life.

To schedule an appointment for your cat, call us at 205-980-0078 or contact us online. Be sure to ask about our Love My Pet plans for your kitten, adult cat, or senior cat, too! Our plans cover your kitty’s annual exams, plus four additional exams per year, vaccinations, nail trims, and even dental procedures.

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