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Wellness Exams for Cats: What to Know Before You Go

Wellness exams for cats are crucial to their overall health and longevity. Here’s how to set and maintain a healthy veterinary schedule for your feline friend.

Wellness exams for cats are a crucial part of your pet’s overall health and consistent care. Unfortunately, these exams often get skipped or postponed by even the most devoted cat owners because getting your feline into a carrier and out of the house can be a struggle. But no matter how difficult it may be, keeping a regular schedule of wellness exams for cats is extremely important. Here’s why you shouldn’t skip these appointments, what happens at wellness exams, and how to make these appointments easier.

Why Wellness Exams for Cats Are Important

You cat’s consistent veterinary visits are important because:

  • They contribute to longevity
  • You might not know if something is wrong with your cat
  • Many issues can be prevented or solved more easily if caught early
  • Your veterinarian can provide advice to help you care for your cat more effectively

Your Cat Will Probably Live Longer with Regular Wellness Exams

Wellness exams for cats can contribute to a longer lifespan for your feline friend. Like living indoors, it is a simple truth that regular contact with your pet’s doctor will help them live a longer and healthier life. Veterinarians are trained to recognize things that might go under your radar in relation to your pet’s health and care, from dental issues to weight fluctuations. By keeping your cat’s health in check, you give them a better chance of living comfortably for a longer time.

Cats Are Masters of Disguise with Their Pain

Another excellent reason for staying committed to wellness exams for cats is that it’s very possible for your pet to be in pain without you realizing it. While you might classify your kitty as a drama queen (especially when it gets close to dinner time), cats actually tend to disguise their pain very well. They are stoic creatures who can suffer in silence for a long time. You don’t ever want your furry friend to be in pain, and furthermore, pain is usually indicative of a health problem that needs to be addressed. With regular wellness exams, you can ensure your cat isn't suffering in silence.

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Early Detection Is Key to Better Outcomes

Many health issues that cats experience, from kidney problems to cat scratch fever, can be more effectively dealt with if identified early. If your veterinarian has an opportunity to see your cat more regularly, it’s likely he or she will be able to notice minor issues before they grow into serious medical conditions. Preventative care is key – the earlier you can achieve diagnosis and treatment of a problem, the less likely your cat’s overall health will be negatively impacted by it. Furthermore, early treatment is often more simple and therefore more affordable than dealing with an issue once it has become serious.

Veterinarians Can Provide Valuable Insight into Improving At-Home Cat Wellness

Wellness exams for cats not only provide an opportunity for your veterinarian to check in with your animal, but it’s an opportunity for them to check in with you, too. Your veterinarian might have valuable advice on a new tool or technology that can help you improve your cat’s quality of life or some insight on how to deal with a cat behavior problem. When you touch base regularly with your pet’s doctor, you’re staying informed about the best practices in cat care.

What Happens at Wellness Exams for Cats

Knowing what to expect at a wellness exam can not only make it less mysterious and stressful for you as a cat parent, but it can also make it easier for you to support veterinarians and vet technicians during the process. Wellness exams for cats usually include:

  • Basic data collection
  • A more thorough physical exam
  • Laboratory testing

A Wellness Visit Starts with Basic Information

A veterinary technician will usually begin the visit by taking you and your cat back to an exam room. They’ll often take your cat’s body weight using a built-in scale on the exam table, then take their temperature using a rectal thermometer. They will ask you questions about your cat, including physical and behavioral questions, and if you have any specific concerns or if you’ve noticed any issues.

The Veterinarian Will Do a Thorough Physical Exam

Your pet’s doctor will then come in and do a thorough physical examination of your cat, from nose to tail, to assess overall body condition. They’ll look for signs of infection, lumps or bumps, congestion, or damage in the ears, nose, and eyes. They’ll also look at the health of your cat’s fur and skin and check their mouth for missing or damaged teeth or inflamed gums. Using a stethoscope, they’ll listen to your cat’s heart and lungs to make sure everything sounds normal and clear.

Using their hands, your veterinarian will also feel around your cat’s abdomen to see if there are any obviously detectable lumps or swelling. During the physical exam, your veterinarian will likely ask you questions about your cat’s behavior and diet, and daily routine. This is also the time to address any specific concerns you have about your cat’s health.

Some Laboratory Tests Will Likely Be Necessary

You will probably need to bring along a sample of your cat’s feces for laboratory testing. This should be easy to obtain from their litter box. It will be tested for parasite eggs. This testing may need to be done more often with kittens, as these parasites are more common in the early stages of a cat’s life.

Your veterinarian might recommend other wellness screening tests that may include a complete blood count (CBC), analysis of urine, biochemistry profile, and testing of thyroid hormones. A variety of factors, such as your cat’s age, any ongoing symptoms, and medical history, will determine how extensive the additional testing might be for your cat. Most veterinarians will recommend specific panels, especially if you have a geriatric cat, to look for specific markers for age-related changes, issues, or diseases.

Choosing a Veterinarian and Tips for Exams

Choosing a veterinarian and scheduling wellness exams for your cat is one of the most important responsibilities you will have in regards to your pet’s health. Here are some tips for ensuring your next wellness exam for cats goes smoothly:

  • Find a veterinarian you trust
  • Help your cat become comfortable with their carrier
  • Start early and don't miss appointments

Find a Veterinarian That You Like and Trust

Start by finding a veterinarian in your area that has good reviews online or through a family member or friend’s recommendation. You can also call and “interview” potential doctors and clinics to ensure they’ll be a good fit for you and your cat. What are their hours? Do they offer weekend or evening appointments to better fit your schedule? Are they accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association? What other services do they offer if needed, like boarding or grooming or specialty care?

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If possible, try to find a veterinarian before your pet comes to live with you, since it’s very important that your cat gets in for a wellness exam and any necessary vaccinations as soon as he or she moves in with you. Many clinics offer new pet exams and services to help you start your new feline family member off on the right paw!

Get Your Cat Comfortable with the Carrier

The trip to and from the veterinarian can be stressful – many cat parents cite this as a reason that they don’t take their cat to more wellness exams. If your cat throws a tantrum every time they have to get into their carrier and take a car ride, then going to the veterinarian for a wellness exam is going to be difficult.

Finding the right kind of carrier for your cat and making them comfortable with it are crucial to ensuring their wellness visits are successful. Make sure the carrier is large enough for them to be comfortable and it is easy for you to open/close and transport. Place the carrier out with the door open and fill it with treats. Let your cat explore and become comfortable with the carrier before it’s time to go anywhere. Positive reinforcement with treats can go a long way to making your cat feel good about their carrier and smoothing out the veterinary visit process.

Veterinary Visits Should Start Early and Happen Often

Starting your pet as early as possible is also a great tip for smoothing out wellness exams for cats. Kittens should be brought to the veterinary office very early in their life for their shots, and getting them comfortable with the process will ultimately prepare them for wellness exams later in life.

Furthermore, if you’re thinking about delaying a wellness exam for your cat, remember this: the more you do it, the easier it is. If you skip or postpone a visit, it might be harder for your cat when you do have to go. If you make a habit of visiting the veterinary office often, it will be easier each time you go.

Helpful Hint: Many veterinary clinics offer free “get acquainted” visits that let you bring your pet in so they can see and smell the space, meet their new care team, and get familiar with the process. And it usually involves a tasty treat so they have a positive experience!

Regular Wellness Exams for Cats Are Crucial to Health

The exact schedule of wellness exams for cats will depend on their age, existing conditions, and general health. Cats tend to require more consistent visits in the early and later years of their life. It’s usually recommended that a healthy adult cat sees the veterinarian at least once, barring any extenuating health conditions. Talk to your veterinarian about the importance of wellness exams for cats and how often you should be making an appointment.

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