In the United States, roughly 42.9 million households collectively own more than 86 million domestic cats - even more than the number of dogs owned in the country. However, recent studies have shown that felines account for only 32% of veterinary visits, and the gross number of feline visits per year is decreasing even as pet ownership is increasing. Cat owners cite travel concerns and in-office stress as two primary reasons to neglect non-emergency care. Cats are just like dogs in that they can develop chronic or acute medical conditions, but they often don’t receive the care they need, or don’t receive it as soon as it is needed. Cats are genetically designed to hide illness; therefore, when an illness becomes apparent at home it is often quite advanced.
A cat’s experience with the veterinarian begins long before he or she enters the hospital, so preparing your cat for the visit at home is an important aspect of feline care. It is best practice to expose your cat to the carrier a few days before your visit. You may place some of his or her favorite toys in the carrier and potentially some catnip if they like it. Pheromones such as Feliway may be sprayed at home in order to give your cat a sense of calm.
When you arrive at the hospital, choose a quiet place to sit, away from any large or imposing animals. At Park East, we do our absolute best to maintain a low-stress environment for cats. We have a room designated for cat visits that includes Feliway dispensers and a clean, carpeted exam table. Our veterinarians and technicians are trained in low-stress handling for cats, with an emphasis placed on the cat’s comfort and using the minimum level of safe restraint. For especially fractious cats, your veterinarian can discuss the safe use of medications that can be given before leaving the house to calm your pet. When necessary, mild sedation administered in the office can minimize stress.
An examination of the eyes, ears, and mouth is performed during which your veterinarian assesses corneal, lens, and retinal health and looks for ear infections. The mouth is examined for dental disease and possible oral masses. Dental disease can be quite painful for your cat, and they may eat in spite of it. Periodic professional dental cleanings are essential to keeping your cat healthy and comfortable. Many owners report a significant behavior change and increased liveliness just a few days after a dental procedure.
Auscultation of the heart and lungs is essential. The neck is examined for a thyroid nodule, which may be a sign of hyperthyroidism, a common disease process in cats. The abdomen is palpated to assess for any intra-abdominal masses. All external lymph nodes are also palpated, as enlargement can be a sign of cancer, infectious disease, or inflammation.
Blood work is usually indicated in middle-aged and older cats. Common conditions that affect cats include hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and kidney disease. Routine blood work will allow your veterinarian to intervene before a minor condition turns into a major one. Even if your cat does not have any abnormalities, establishing trends and a baseline for lab values can be extremely important as issues arise. The chronology of conditions - whether an acute change or a slow chronic change - will help your veterinarian give a more accurate prognosis.
If your cat appears to be in good health, vaccinations will be part of the annual exam. Rabies vaccination is required by law, and immunization against upper respiratory infections and distemper is also routine. If your cat goes outdoors, further vaccination may be recommended.
Let’s be better for our cats, together. Regular veterinary care aids in the prevention and early detection of disease, improving your cat’s health, happiness, and longevity. To schedule an appointment, or if you ever have any concerns about your cat’s well being, call our office at 212-832-8417 and speak with one of our veterinarians.