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Cat Wellness Exams - How Cat Wellness Exams Improve Life Quality

What is a cat wellness exam?

A cat wellness exam would be a complete physical exam. We're talking about wellness, so we're talking about not going in with any expected problems but, rather, doing a full physical exam: looking at the eyes, the ears, the mouth, body condition, listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the belly, and checking the skin for parasites—an excellent general work-up baseline.

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What will you be looking for during the cat wellness exam?

We're looking for a nice baseline. We want to know what this cat's normal is. What is a good weight for the cat? What do their teeth look like? Is it time for a dental? Does it look like any teeth need an extraction, or are there any problems? Do we have any parasites or hear a heart murmur? We're looking for anything that seems out of the ordinary.

Will my cat's wellness exam require any kind of blood work or lab work?

It depends. I'd say, in general, yes. I would expect some degree of procedures. We recommend fecal exams twice a year, and, depending on the age of the pet, we recommend specific blood tests. For instance, if you just got a cat, we would recommend feline leukemia, FIV testing, especially in kittens or in sick animals as well. Getting into the senior-related things, we might want to check a urine analysis or a thyroid level or look at other baseline things, looking for common diseases. Knowing the cat is where it all starts.

How does wellness impact my cat's health and longevity?

Often, what we're looking for are common changes—what their baseline is because many older cats can get kidney disease, hyperthyroid disease, and diabetes, so when we do find things, we have their baseline. We're also looking for minor changes that may indicate a problem is on the way, that maybe we can address when it's early on versus managing something when it's full-blown, and there are symptoms. There can also be some diseases we may discover when they're younger that treatment can perhaps prolong their longevity.

What are some signs and symptoms that my cat may not be feeling well?

Cats are very tricky about that, as they are quite good at hiding disease. That's what they're designed to do, but you know your cat best. You know symptoms to look for. You know if the cat's not acting right. The cat's in a place where they normally don't want to be. Perhaps they're more or less social than they normally are. They could be drinking more water, going to the litter box more, and engaging in different habits than they normally would. We usually know the cat's baseline, so we know when something is not right because cats are very secretive about their diseases.

What are some possible environmental factors that can affect my cat's wellness?

There are quite a few things that can affect your cat's wellness environmentally. Some things depend on if your cat is indoor-outdoor, as there are things they can be exposed to outdoors, such as parasites and other animals.

Another thing to consider about environmental factors is dietary factors. What are you feeding your cat? What are they exposed to in the house? Are there safety factors to consider? Cats can get into a lot of bad things because they can get in different places.

Why is early detection so important to the wellbeing of my cat?

As mentioned earlier, finding things before there are symptoms is better than having full-blown symptoms or full-blown illness that may be difficult to come back from. Doing wellness checks, finding baselines, and finding things early can help cats in the long run.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Cat Wellness Exams - FAQs 1

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Do I need to do anything to prepare for my cat's wellness exam?

That can be a bit of a tricky question in some cases, as it depends on your cat. I'd say the majority of cats do not enjoy coming to see us. Even though we like seeing them, they don't want to be here. They're nervous, scared, and they sense things. Sometimes, preparing for a wellness exam will involve things like getting the carrier ready and trying to make it not quite as scary a situation for your cat.

We have things called kitty comfort kits here where they can involve things like Feliway wipes or pheromone sprays that you can use in the carrier to decrease some of their stress. Some cats respond very well to catnip and will relax with that. Having the carrier out a couple of days before your appointment is valuable, letting the cat go in and out of it. Give them some treats in there, and consider using treats on the day of. We also have some medications for some stressed-out cats that may bring things down a notch to help them. So those would be the things I'd recommend to get your cat ready.

Our goal isn't necessarily to completely sedate them. But like some people take some medications to fly, something just to take the edge off can make cats more comfortable. In some cases, we have to flat out sedate them when they get here, depending on the cat. Decreasing stress is a crucial part of it. Otherwise, you want to be ready for your exam by bringing what questions you have. Do you have some concerns? Are there things you want us to address? Have a list of questions or know what you're getting into—having a list of medications that your pet is on, the dosages, frequency, and things that you need like that.

Bring their records and have your questions written down because you could get here and blank and forget what you were going to ask.

How long does a cat wellness exam usually take?

Well, some of it depends on you and your cat. Is your cat healthy? Are there a lot of problems we need to address? Do you have a lot of questions? Is your cat older or younger? And what have we gotten into so far? Typically, we schedule routine cat wellness exams for 30 minutes. We'll schedule senior cats for about an hour, giving a little more time for the collection of samples and going over certain aspects.

How do cat wellness exams influence subsequent treatment?

We are looking for a baseline, so we are looking for things to compare to later. Especially as a cat gets older, there are certain things we want to know where they were when they were younger, where they were as things were going along, so we can look for things like diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroid disease as they get older. Wellness visits get us ready for future visits. It's also not always easy to tell when your cat has gained or lost some weight unless it's a significant amount, and so when we catch some of those trends, we can catch some diseases early and make some changes.

How often should my cat get a wellness exam?

We recommend twice-yearly physicals for all pets in general of all ages. When they have other diseases or get older, there may be reasons to come in more often than that, but we recommend twice yearly. Cats and dogs age a lot quicker than we do, and so a lot can happen in a cat's lifespan in just six months.

Do kittens need more wellness exams than adult cats?

They sure do. With kittens, there are many more things that are changing. They need more vaccines early on to get their immune system ready, so they come in every three to four weeks at first to get the appropriate vaccine series. And then we watch trends as they're growing and changing to make sure things are on par for where we want them.

How often does my cat need a dental checkup?

Every time they come in, we're going to be looking at those teeth, but I'd say once or twice a year minimally on that. And you should be keeping an eye on it yourself at home. Cats can be tricky, just like they are with all kinds of diseases. They get some common diseases that can be more under the gum line than visible up top. You want to look for subtleties at the gum line or changes in how they're eating—are they drooling, or is there anything weird going on there? Keep checking your cat's mouth as much as they'll let you, of course. Some cats are a little trickier than others on that. But certainly, at least with their twice-yearly checkups, we would want to keep an eye on that.

As far as dental cleanings, I'd say most cats don't tend to need them more than once a year, depending on the cat. Some don't even need them that often. If we find that your cat has some of those lesions under the gum line, we're probably going to be monitoring and rechecking those at least yearly with dental x-rays under anesthesia.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Cat Wellness Exams - FAQs 2

Dr. Kristin Christy
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What are some of the things that I can do to maximize my cat's wellness at home?

You can do quite a few things, even things as simple as appropriate feeding, trying to maintain proper weight, and having a safe environment for them so they can't hurt themselves or get into things. Cats get a little trickier beyond that. Because cats can get upset and be very picky about certain things, these things can cause stress in their lives. And when cats have stress in their lives, they put stress in your lives—sometimes urinating in inappropriate places or causing other issues.

Some other critical cat-specific things have to do with litter box maintenance, how many litter boxes per number of cats in the household. The general rule is to have one more than the number of cats that you have. For some people with five cats, for example, that's a little bit much, but it's imperative to adhere to those numbers. Also, don't have eight litter boxes lined up in the same room. If you have a three-story house, you're going to want to probably have one on each story and in different parts of the house. You're going to want to have them where the cats can feel comfortable. This isn't always our most convenient location, as you don't want to tuck it somewhere that a cat's scared to go or feels trapped to go. Instead, use places where the cat is comfortable and wants to go. Most cats also appreciate frequently scooped litter boxes. Don't change anything if they like their litter—don't give them newer, different litter. Some of those things can stress cats out. And when you have stressed cats, it is going to affect their wellness in general.

You should also consider enrichment. Cats like to lay around a lot and lay in the sun and enjoy things, but they also enjoy playing. Some cats like the laser pointers, having something you can interact with, having different levels, and having little cat trees or places they can climb or get away.

And then if you have a multi-species household - if you have little children, dogs, or other creatures in the house - cats want a special place to go to be away. If they feel like they need to get away from the hustle and bustle, having that place is also very important for their enrichment and their wellness in general.

If you have a cat that goes both indoors and outdoors, what are the best ways to keep them healthy?

There are different things to consider with indoor versus outdoor cats—things they're exposed to outdoors that they might not get exposed to indoors and vice versa. In general, if you have a cat that goes in and out, I would encourage the cat to be in at night. That's probably better for their wellness and safety. Didn't everyone's mothers say that nothing good happens after 11 PM? Cats need to be in, too, as there are no good things out there happening at night for them either. They're more at risk for getting injured, getting attacked, disappearing, or having other things happen.

Whether you have an indoor-only cat, an indoor, outdoor cat, or an outdoor-only cat, they can be exposed to parasites. We recommend the Revolution plus, as it protects against fleas and ticks and heartworms, ear mites, intestinal parasites. There are many things that cats can be exposed to both inside and outside.

There are also certain lifestyle vaccines that we recommend for cats. If a cat never is exposed to another cat that goes outdoors, is the only cat in the household and indoors only, they probably don't need a leukemia vaccine. Yet a cat that goes outside or one that's exposed to a cat that goes in and out would need something to consider to help with their wellness. There are differences and similarities in how you handle indoor vs. outdoor cats.

Why should I get a rabies vaccine for my cat if they never go outside?

That's very important. And it's good that you brought that up because that's more of a legality issue. No matter where your cat is or what your cat's doing, a rabies vaccine is going to be a legal requirement. But there are plenty of times something happens to the cat inside the house. Maybe it gets broken into, or maybe there's a fire. Perhaps someone who's not usually there accidentally leaves a door open, and the cat gets out. Also, we have seen many cases where a bat gets trapped in the house, and then animal control comes by and finds out that a bat was in the house. If they find a cat that's not up to date on a rabies vaccine, that can be a big deal. They can take your cat from you. Or there can be other consequences for that, and some danger for the cat too.

Microchipping is very vital for cats. How many times does a cat show up, and we scan it for a microchip, and there's not one? And there's probably somebody looking for that cat. Sometimes there are stray cats, but there are also many cats that if we only had that microchip, we could reunite them with their owners. I'd call microchipping a good wellness thing as well for the health and wellness of getting the cat back to where they're supposed to be.

How often do I need to brush my cat's teeth?

How often do you brush your teeth? We'd love that to be the number of times you brush your cat's teeth. But really though, most cats, my cat included, are not interested in me brushing her teeth. Some cats are excellent at brushing. And you can kind of play around with different techniques; whether you use a tiny toothbrush or the little finger brushes, or even a little gauze pad, you can let them mess or chew on certain things with the toothpaste on it. In an ideal world, all joking aside, brushing is recommended if your cat does allow that. It's great for dental care. And several times a week would be the recommendation, but we don't want people getting hurt. We don't want to stress the cats out and force it upon them. We can try other little things such as water additives or dental chews—those can be some different ways to work on home dental care for cats.

What's even more important is to get your cat in and get an exam because when they come in twice a year, we can catch issues before they get really bad. And I know we struggle getting cats in; more dogs come in than cats. It can be more challenging to get them in without them whining and crying. The cat comfort kits can help, so there are no excuses for missing those annual and semi-annual wellness visits.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 872-3625, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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