First Things First - Getting to the Appointment
For some cats, especially those that are kept indoors only, or are prone to getting stressed, a trip to a vet clinic can be a real challenge. Simply getting them inside their carrier can be a struggle and the car ride may be filled with anxiety: both your cat’s and your own, as they howl and attempt to escape from their ‘prison’ for the entire trip!
To make things smoother, planning ahead is key. Acclimatise your kitty to their carrier by having it out in the home, rather than stored in the garage where it becomes dusty and filled with cobwebs. Use it is a bedding option for the cat or offer them treats and meals inside, so it soon becomes a ‘safe place’. Do several trial runs before the big day, carrying your cat inside for a minute or two, then letting them out and rewarding them.
Some nervous felines may benefit from calming supplements, which are given in the food for several days before the trip, and it is also worth asking your vet about pheromones such as ‘Feliway’ that can have a calming effect and can be sprayed onto a blanket used inside the carrier.
On the day of the visit, those cats that are prone to travel sickness should be starved for a few hours before the journey. Try to arrive right on time, avoiding any long waits in a waiting room that may be quite busy and loud. Be sure to cover the carrier with a thick towel, which not only blocks out noise but also helps your kitty cat feel more secure.
Making the Most of your Visit
Ensure you have thought ahead and have come prepared to the visit. Many owners will bring along lists of questions which they are keen to ask, or perhaps videos of things that their cat has recently been doing (such as walking with a slight limp), to seek a veterinary opinion on them. Any cat related query that you have, whether it be about their health, behavior, diet or something else, can be asked at this time.
It’s a two-way street and your vet will also have plenty of questions to ask you! They will want to know all about what your cat has been getting up to recently. As well as the more obvious questions regarding their general demeanor and appetite, vets will want to know about other things such as their outdoor access, exercise levels and any other pets they may live with. Vets will use your answers to guide the consultation. For example, if you mention that they have been dribbling more lately, they may focus their attention on the mouth and teeth.
The General Exam
The physical exam is a complete check over of the cat, where no stone is left unturned. Every inch of their body from the point of the nose to the tip of the tail is examined in detail. Vets will often wish to comb their coat for signs of any external parasites and will inspect their skin over for any new growths or dermatitis. They will ensure their weight is acceptable by both weighing them and by performing a ‘body condition assessment’. While cats may not enjoy the imposition, even the feistiest of cats are normally well enough behaved to allow a good check over. For some, it may be necessary for a second staff member to be present, to assist in holding the patient securely, safely, and comfortably.
If the cat requires something to be done, such as a worming tablet to be given or a vaccine to be injected, this will be carried out once the physical exam is completed and the cat is found to be in good health. Owners may also wish to request some more anti-parasite therapy and can ask for repeat prescriptions of any medicine that the cat is on long-term, such as thyroid tablets or insulin. In older cats, it is not unusual for vets to recommend routine blood and urine tests, as well as blood pressure checks, to ensure that there are no underlying health conditions starting to develop.
For some pets, a health check may not go as planned and the vet may discover something out of the ordinary. This might include some rotten teeth, a heart murmur or a new lump. It would not be unusual for some follow-up tests or procedures to be recommended, depending on what has been picked up. For example, a vet may advise that a new lump is sampled (a ‘fine needle aspiration’) to determine what exactly it is and to know if it requires removal. In older cats who are losing weight, a blood test for a “health profile” can often pinpoint the source of any problems early.
Ongoing Health Checks
Once the consultation is completed, it may be necessary for the vet to book an animal back in for a re-check going forward. As a good example, this is commonly done for those kitties who are over-weight. In these cases, the vet will advise less food, or perhaps a specific weight loss diet and an exercise plan, and then ask that they are seen back at the clinic every six weeks or so for ongoing assessment, to ensure their new lifestyle is helping them to get back into shape.