Throughout my life, I’ve heard my share of cat myths. You know those. Cats always land on their paws. Cats have nine lives. Cats are nocturnal.
Most myths are harmless, but there is one myth that is concerning: that pet cats don’t need regular veterinary checkups.
Now, if your cat looks like my poor Tubby cat, reassure him, a trip to the vet can be a difficult experience for both of you. Tubby seemed to grow four extra legs and double in size every time he had to go in a carrier. Her pitiful cries of distress during the seemingly endless car ride brought me to tears.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time that it was possible to teach a cat to use a carrier and that there were other techniques to lessen the stress of a visit to the doctor.
We adopted Tubby as a senior, and he only stayed with us for a few years. I’ll never know for sure, but with more routine vet care, it’s possible Tubby stayed with us a bit longer. We avoided stressful visits to the vet, until one day Tubby suddenly showed severe distress from congestive heart failure.
The truth is that cats, just like dogs and humans, should have annual health and wellness checkups. A visit to the veterinarian is just as crucial for a kitten’s health as it is for the well-being of adult and senior cats. And here are some reasons why:
Cats have mastered the art of hiding disease
Since cats can rarely show signs of illness, an annual checkup is one of the best ways to keep your feline in the best health possible. These annual visits allow your vet to notice any changes in your cat’s condition from year to year and help you catch potentially serious problems early.
Vaccinations are the key to long-term well-being
As kittens, cats receive a series of vaccines to protect them from common diseases. During your cat’s annual checkup, your veterinarian will review any necessary booster shots and updates to your cat’s vaccination schedule to keep him healthy.
Sterilization and sterilization promote healthy living
Spaying and neutering eliminates the risk of certain types of cancer and helps prevent harmful behaviors like spraying or branding. Plus, it prevents unwanted litters and is part of the solution to solving overcrowding of pets in shelters.
Dental disease can be dangerous
During an annual exam, your veterinarian will check your cat’s teeth to make sure they are clean and that there are no loose teeth, gum disease, or signs of infection. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend dental cleanings or dental extractions under anesthesia.
You are what you eat
Your veterinarian can advise you on helping your cat maintain a healthy weight and direct you to a high-quality food specially formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of your cat’s age and lifestyle.
Litter box problems can be a sign of something bigger
When everything else seems normal, one place where the first signs of illness can appear is the litter box. If your cat’s litter box habits change or you notice a change in the condition of the litter box contents, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
If you don’t already have a veterinarian you trust for your pet’s health, it’s important to plan ahead to find a veterinary practice in your area that is accepting new patients. With the current shortage of veterinary healthcare professionals, many practices schedule visits several weeks in advance. Remember to familiarize yourself with nearby veterinary hospitals offering 24-hour care in case of emergency.
Dia DuVernet is President and CEO of Pasadena Humane. www.pasadenahumane.org