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Make a New Year’s Resolution to Get Your Cat to the Vet

It's easy to put off getting your cat in for a checkup, but it’s crucial to continued good health.

JaneA Kelley  |  Jan 4th 2017


This is the time of year when you plan to do things that are good for you. Maybe you’ve decided to lose some weight, exercise more, quit smoking, or start meditating to relax. But it’s time to make plans to do things that are good for your cat, too. The most important of these is getting your cat to the vet for a checkup.

Photo: JaneA Kelley

Photo: JaneA Kelley

It can be hard to imagine why your cat would need to go to the vet if she’s not sick. Here are just a few reasons why she should.

To detect illness before it becomes serious

Cats are experts at hiding pain and illness. Just because your cat doesn’t seem sick doesn’t mean she isn’t. She could have dental disease — by three years of age, most cats have signs of dental disease, which can be very painful. As your cat ages, the likelihood that she’ll develop other illnesses such as hyperthyroidism or kidney disease also increases. By getting your cat to the vet for regular blood tests and exams, you’ll catch the disease earlier, leading to a better prognosis and a longer life with your beloved kitty.

Monitoring your cat's weight is an important reason for regular vet checks. Photo CC-BY-NC Richard Klein

Monitoring your cat’s weight is an important reason for regular vet checks. Photo CC-BY-NC Richard Klein

To monitor your cat’s weight

An estimated 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese. This can lead to illnesses such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and painful joint problems. Sometimes it can be hard to recognize when your cat is overweight, but your vet can tell you — and give you advice on diet and exercise to get her back down to a healthy weight.

To get lifestyle-appropriate vaccines

Not every cat needs every vaccine, but the only way to know for sure what is best for your cat is to take her to the vet. Not only that, but rabies vaccines are required by law in most of the United States — even for indoor-only cats.

A lot of cats have painful dental disease by age 3. Another good reason for that vet visit! Photo: JaneA Kelley

A lot of cats have painful dental disease by age 3. Another good reason for that vet visit! Photo: JaneA Kelley

To get help with behavioral issues

The No. 1 reason cats are surrendered to shelters is inappropriate elimination. Your vet can help you deal with this problem by screening your cat for illnesses and giving you advice on how to manage the behavior. Other issues your vet can help you manage behaviorally are problems of clawing and scratching, eating inappropriate objects, and anxiety.

To get to know your vet

It’s crucial to develop a relationship with a veterinarian. If your vet sees your cat regularly, she will have records of what’s normal for your cat, so if you bring your kitty in because she “ain’t doin’ right,” there will be a baseline of what happens when she “is doin’ right.” Getting to know your vet will also build a relationship of mutual trust, which you’ll need if your cat becomes ill or gets injured.

Photo: JaneA Kelley

Photo: JaneA Kelley

The biggest barrier to getting your cat to the vet can be just trying to get her there. A lot of cats hate the carrier, and it can be a fight to the death to get your kitty in there. Then you have to put up with the wails of despair all the way to the vet’s office, and possibly a bunch of vomiting and peeing, too.

The good news? You can train your cat to like the carrier and enjoy going to the vet. Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett has written a six-step process to get your cat adjusted to being in a carrier. If you follow her advice, you can get your cat accustomed to being transported.

Cat-only or cat-friendly vet practices can be less stressful for your cat to visit. Photo: JaneA Kelley

Cat-only or cat-friendly vet practices can be less stressful for your cat to visit. Photo: JaneA Kelley

More good advice: Go to a cat-only vet. A lot of cats get really nervous when they smell dogs, especially when they’re “trapped” in their carriers. A cat-only practice won’t have this problem. The staff at cat-only clinics are experts in cat handling and cat care, so you’ll have better results with health maintenance and if you need to deal with an illness in your cat.

If you can’t get to a cat-only vet, try a cat-friendly practice. The American Association of Feline Practitioners certifies these practices as ones where cat stress is minimized and staff are specially trained in cat handling. Find one in your area here.

So don’t wait; make that vet appointment today and get your kitty in for a checkup. That’s one New Year’s resolution that’ll be easy to keep!