Cats are presently the most popular pet in America. According to a newly published American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, cats outnumber dogs 82 to 71 million. Another AVMA survey indicates that cats unfortunately tend to visit a veterinarian less frequently than dogs - less than once a year compared to 1.5 times a year for dogs. This is bad news for cats because they are very good at hiding illness and pain. Millions of cats do not see a veterinarian until they are profoundly ill.
Q. When my cat was adopted from a shelter, they said "everything was done." Does he still need to see a vet?
A. Definitely! It's important that you and your cat quickly establish a relationship with a veterinarian that you both like and trust. Once this is done, you will have a professional to go to for advice and emergencies. Also, each shelter has its own definition of "everything." Your veterinarian should ask you about your new cat's lifestyle. He will then be able to tell you more specifically what your cat needs in order to stay healthy; like appropriate nutrition, vaccinations and parasite prevention. Your veterinarian can also offer you training advice to encourage preferred behavior in your cat.
Q. How can I tell if my cat is sick or in pain?
A. Cats are so adept at hiding illness and pain that 10 signs have been chosen as a quick check list for owners: 1. inappropriate elimination 2. changes in interactions with people or other pets 3. changes in activity levels 4. changes in sleeping habits 5. changes in food or water consumption 6. unexplained weight loss or gain 7. changes in grooming habits 8. signs of stress 9. changes in vocalization 10. bad breath.
Q. How often should my cat see a veterinarian?
A. You should take your cat in to see a veterinarian at least once a year. Twice a year is even better as cats age so much faster than humans. Your cat's first visit should include an examination, routine lab work, updating of vaccines, if needed, and prescribing of appropriate parasite prevention. This is a good time for you to bring up any other concerns. The second visit should be his annual dental cleaning. Older cats and those with chronic health problems may need more frequent visits for monitoring blood pressure and blood work, like thyroid values.
Q. My cat doesn't go outside, so he doesn't need vaccines or routine veterinary visits, right? He seems perfectly fine.
A. It is important to develop a relationship with a veterinarian to determine what your cat needs and to have a trusted professional to go to with an emergency. Even indoor cats need routine vaccinations and parasite prevention; such as for heartworm, and perhaps internal parasites and fleas depending on your cat's situation. During a routine exam your veterinarian can find subtle problems your cat may be hiding from you. Since the most common source of hidden chronic pain and infection is your cat's mouth, your cat needs regular, professional dental care. Nutritional needs change as a cat ages. Your veterinarian will provide appropriate nutrition counseling to help keep your cat at an ideal weight and health. Regular preventive care will help your feline friend live a long and comfortable life and will help to catch problems early enough to treat them more easily and successfully.
Dr. Rebecca Schmidt and Dr. Michelle Miller are veterinarians at the Northern Illinois Cat Clinic, a full service feline-exclusive veterinary clinic, located at 295 Peterson in Libertyville. Learn more at http://www.northernilcatclinic.com, by calling 847-680-1770 or following them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Northern-Illinois-Cat-Clinic/284402286569.