With so much marketing and publicity for veterinary health care focused on dogs, cat owners may not realize that regular veterinary care is also critical for their feline friend. And, cats are not small dogs—they have their own specific health-care needs, and regular veterinary care is equally important for their long-term health as it is for your dog’s. If you are unsure how to provide your cat with the health care she needs, we can help you develop her life-long plan, from kittenhood through her golden years.
Vaccinations for cats
Preventing disease and illness is always preferable to treating a sickness that could easily have been avoided. Regardless of your cat’s lifestyle, vaccination is one of the most important components of her health-care plan. Cats who never go outside are susceptible to bacteria and viruses that you or other pets can bring into your home, so vaccinate your cat to protect her from diseases, such as:
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis
- Feline leukemia
Our veterinary team can determine the best vaccination course for your cat’s lifestyle. Feline vaccines should begin at 8 weeks of age, with several consecutive sets given in 3- to 4-week intervals to protect her from a range of diseases. After the initial kitten vaccines, most cats receive annual boosters. If you adopt an adult cat with an unknown vaccine history, we can get her caught up and on a yearly vaccination schedule.
Parasite prevention for cats
Cats can contract a number of external and internal parasites from the environment or other animals. Regular prevention should begin at a young age and continue throughout your cat’s life to prevent parasite-related diseases. Parasite prevention should include protection from:
- Fleas and ticks, which can make their way into your home on people or other pets
- Ear mites
- Intestinal worms, such as roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms
Many kittens will need to be dewormed several times to eliminate roundworms they are born with. Once your kitten is parasite-free, she may need to regularly receive a preventive medication to kill common parasites; however, preventives do not exist for all parasites, so routine wellness visits with fecal analysis must be performed at least yearly. Our veterinary team will help you decide which treatments are necessary for your cat.
Castration and ovariohysterectomy for cats
Spaying or neutering your cat will reduce the unwanted pet population, prevent reproductive diseases, and help you avoid unwanted behaviors. Female cats come into heat at around 6 months of age, and will have an extended heat cycle approximately nine months of every year if they do not mate and become pregnant. Female cats should be spayed between the ages of 6 and 9 months to decrease the risk of pregnancy, life-threatening mammary cancer, and other health problems.
Intact male cats often develop territory-related behaviors, such as marking, wandering, and fighting with other males, so they are best neutered at around 6 months of age to prevent female pregnancies and testosterone-related behaviors.
Regular wellness exams for cats
Every cat should visit her family veterinarian regularly for wellness evaluations. After kitten vaccines are completed, wellness visits should take place every 12 months. During your cat’s wellness visit, your veterinary team will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate her various body systems and to check for illness and disease signs, as well as a fecal examination to ensure she has not been infected with any intestinal parasites.
When cats become senior pets
After your cat turns 10 wellness exams can be increased to every six months. Unfortunately, as your cat ages, her risk of organ deterioration and health problems increases, and her health status can change dramatically in a year’s time.
During senior wellness exams, our team will often perform routine blood work to evaluate organ function and screen for illness. Many feline diseases, such as kidney failure, cause no obvious clinical signs until organ function has significantly deteriorated and few treatments can help. Regular blood work can help us detect silent diseases in their early stages, when treatment options may still be available to slow disease progression, prolong life, and improve your cat’s quality of life.
If you have questions about your cat’s health or regular veterinary care, contact us.