Health & Wellness

Wellness Exams

Cats need regular veterinary care, including wellness exams at least once a year. Cats age faster than you do, so an annual exam for them is similar to you visiting your doctor or dentist every four to five years. Prevention is always safer and less expensive than treatment, and is why your cat needs to be seen at least once a year by your veterinarian.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Animal Hospital Association and Cat Healthy recommend a minimum of one annual wellness exam for cats, with more frequent exams for senior and geriatric patients, or those cats with medical or behavioral conditions.

Health Risk Assessment

Your veterinarian will conduct a health-risk assessment during your cat’s annual checkup. Here’s what you can expect:

• Discussion and review of your cat’s health history, diet, age and weight considerations from your last visit

• Physical exam to include teeth, gums, eyes, ears, skin, coat, paws, joints, heart, lungs, etc.

• Follow-up tests or a dental cleaning may also be recommended.

• Overview of prescriptions, heartworm preventive and flea and tick medication

• Review of age- and lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations

• Lifestyle changes or upcoming events such as travel, pet sitting or boarding

Life Stage Risk Assessment

Is your cat young or old? What is the difference between a senior and geriatric cat? Your veterinarian may use a wellness checklist that corresponds to the age of your cat. Using life stage checklists along with the results of the health risk assessment will help identify your cat's age-related risk factors.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association have developed six age categories for cats.

Cats are Living Longer

Cats are living longer now, especially indoor cats. Senior and geriatric cats require two wellness exams per year to ensure continued health and a high quality of life.

Veterinarians recommend these tips for senior cats:
  • Easy access to litter boxes
  • Softer beds
  • Steps to your bed if your cat sleeps with you

Risks for Unvaccinated Cats

Find out what the risk factors are for unvaccinated cats, depending on their health history, life stage and lifestyle.

Subtle Signs of Sickness

Cats are extremely adept at hiding illness, so subtle changes in your cat’s behaviour or physique may signal a bigger health problem. If your cat exhibits any of the following 10 signs, be sure to discuss them with your veterinarian.

1. Inappropriate Elimination Behavior

When your cat urinates or defecates outside the litter box, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Medical conditions associated with these behaviours include lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, pain associated with arthritis and diabetes mellitus.

2. Changes in Interaction

Cats are social. When the way they interact with family members or other pets changes, it could be a sign of disease, fear, anxiety or even pain.

3. Changes in Activity

A decrease or increase in activity can be a sign of a number of conditions. Discomfort from joint disease or illness can lead to decreased activity; hyperthyroidism can cause an increase in activity.

4. Changes in Sleeping Habits

Look for changes such as a decrease or increase in consumption of food or water. An increase in water intake could be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other illnesses.

5. Changes in Food and Water Consumption

Look for changes such as a decrease or increase in consumption of food or water. An increase in water intake could be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other illnesses.

6. Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain

Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat’s thick coat. A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. If your cat goes to the food dish and then backs away without eating, nausea or oral pain may be the source. At the same time, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems.

7. Changes in Grooming

Cats are typically fastidious groomers. A decrease in grooming behaviour can indicate a number of conditions, including fear, pain, anxiety, obesity or other illnesses. An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem.

8. Signs of Stress

Stressed cats may demonstrate a increase in grooming and social interaction, spending more time awake and scanning their environment. Or, they may hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression. Stress may also cause changes (increased or decreased) in appetite.

9. Changes in Vocalization

An increase in vocalization or howling is more common in older cats and is often seen with some underlying conditions such as hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. Many cats also vocalize more if they are in pain or anxious. If you note a change in vocalization, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems and to obtain suggestions for minimizing or eliminating the behavior.

10. Bad Breath

Dental disease can lead to bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to the heart and other organs. An early sign of an oral health problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and regular veterinary dental exams are the best way to prevent dental disease.