Cat owners are less likely than dog owners to take their cats to the veterinarian, and less than half of cats receive regular veterinary care, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Cats may not venture outdoors as often, but they need regular veterinary care as much as dogs. Follow our seven-step plan to ensure the best health possible for your feline friend.

  1. Viral testing

All kittens and newly adopted cats should be screened for contagious feline viral diseases they may have contracted from another cat. Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus weaken a cat’s immune system, making it more likely she will contract other illnesses. Both diseases can cause life-long infection, chronic illness, and death, so it is important to know if your cat is infected. We will draw a few drops of blood and run a quick test to confirm she is disease-free. 

  1. Regular vaccination

Routine vaccination is critical to protect your cat from life-threatening infectious diseases. Your cat may not venture outdoors, but you or another pet can carry bacteria and viruses into your home. Vaccinations commonly administered to protect your cat may include:

    • Rabies
    • Feline viral rhinotracheitis
    • Calicivirus
    • Panleukopenia
    • Chlamydophila felis
    • Feline leukemia

Our veterinary team will determine which vaccines your cat should receive, based on her age and lifestyle. Ideally, cats’ vaccinations should begin at 6 weeks of age with several sets of kitten vaccines spaced three to four weeks apart, followed by, for most cats, booster vaccines administered when necessary. 

  1. Parasite screening

A number of parasites can infect your cat and wreak havoc on her body. Some parasites are found externally on the skin or fur, whereas others can enter your cat’s body and cause severe illness. External parasites that can cause your cat problems include:

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Lice
  • Mites

As part of your cat’s annual wellness exam, we will check her skin for external parasites. If you see a flea or tick on your cat, or if she seems itchy, bring her to our veterinary hospital for an evaluation.

Internal parasites can cause a host of problems, including diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and respiratory disease. Internal parasites that can infect your cat include:

  • Heartworms
  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Coccidia
  • Giardia

Your cat’s fecal sample should be tested annually to screen for intestinal parasites, and a simple blood test administered to rule out heartworms.  

  1. Parasite prevention

In addition to screening for parasites, every cat should be on a parasite-prevention plan appropriate for her lifestyle. Cats who go outdoors will have a higher risk of parasite exposure, although people and other pets can bring fleas and ticks into your home and expose an indoor cat. Likewise, a single mosquito can slip through an open door or window and transmit heartworm disease. 

Parasite prevention can begin as early as 2 weeks of age with deworming for roundworms, which most kittens are born with. Adult cats should receive a monthly flea and tick preventive. Many products are available, and our veterinary team can help you decide which is most appropriate for your cat. She should also receive a monthly heartworm prevention medication, many of which prevent intestinal worms as well as heartworms. Although this product combination will protect your cat from the most common parasites, annual screening is still critical to ensure effective prevention and to check for parasites that cannot be prevented.

  1. Spaying or neutering

Spaying or neutering your cat at the appropriate age can prevent undesired behaviors, reproductive problems, and unwanted kittens. The procedure should be performed on most cats at approximately 6 months of age; however, we can help you determine the best time for your cat. Although younger cats can be altered, removing their hormone source too early can interfere with development and increase future disease risk.

  1. Regular wellness exams

Young adult cats should visit our veterinary hospital every 12 months for a routine wellness exam, which will include a number of important tests and preventive procedures, including:

  • A thorough physical exam
  • A fecal test to screen for intestinal parasites
  • A heartworm test
  • Additional tests, based on physical exam findings
  • Vaccinations
  • Parasite prevention

Although your cat may seem healthy, wellness exams are critical to maintain her good health and detect illness signs that may not be obvious. Regular wellness visits are one of the most important aspects of your cat’s health-care plan to ensure she enjoys the long, healthy life she deserves. 

  1. Senior cat care

As cats age, their disease risk increases, so once your cat is 8 years old, wellness exams should increase to every six months. Your senior cat’s wellness exam will include blood work to evaluate organ function and screen for systemic diseases she may be hiding. Cats are particularly good at hiding illness signs until disease has advanced to an untreatable point and little can be done. Early detection often allows us more treatment options to prolong your cat’s life and make her as comfortable as possible. 

If you have questions about your cat’s health, or if you need to schedule a wellness visit, contact us.