cats snuggling

 My cat lives indoors- he doesn’t need to go to the vet”

This is a relatively common sentiment from cat owners. Working at a Veterinary Hospital, we hear this on a regular basis. What is more, there are lots of cat owners that don’t say this to us, they simply don’t bring their cats in for a yearly health exam. Why is that?

Well, first off, cats are pretty independent creatures. They often appear to get along fine without much input from us. Clean the litter, put out the food, cuddle on the couch when you watch TV; cats are happy, right? Well, not really.

The other reason is that a lot of cats live only indoors, and so the risk of exposure to viruses, bacteria and parasites is less than most dogs, so some cat owners put less importance on vaccination, deworming and external parasite control; but is the assumption that cats don’t need this care really correct?

Lastly, because cats don’t often travel anywhere except to the vet, even the car trip can be difficult; but does it have to be this way?

Firstly, each year a cat ages approximately 6 cat years. If it has been 2 years since your cat has been in to see us, then that is more than a decade since they have seen the doctor. A lot can change in that time.

  • Between 1 and 2 years, a large proportion of indoor cats become overweight from too many calories & too little exercise.
  • By the age of 3, over 85% of cats have dental disease and unless you are brushing your cat’s teeth daily, this may get missed.
  • More than 60% of cats over the age of 8 have some degree of arthritis making even walking up the stairs uncomfortable. And cats are very good at hiding when they are sick.

Early detection of any problem is key to solving it and preventing further illness. For all of these reasons, a yearly health exam is needed for all cats to ensure that they remain healthy throughout their lives. This is preventative health care for your feline.

What about vaccinations?

While it is true that indoor cats do not get exposed to the same level of infectious agents as outdoor cats, to say that they don’t need vaccinations is much too simple. Rabies vaccination, for instance, is required by law for domestic animals, and if an unvaccinated animal is ever involved in a bite incident, Public Health officials can order quarantines on the animal or even euthanasia and testing in extreme situations. Further, although cats may be exposed to less risk indoors, the risk is not zero. Indoor cats do often go out on porches or backyards where exposure can happen. Indoor cats can escape outdoors and come home with injuries that may have exposed them to infectious agents, and people or other animals can, in theory bring infectious agents into the house. As well, cats are secretive animals by nature and to think that we know what our cats are doing in their free time may be naive. Many cats hunt in basements or attic spaces where rodents or other animals come in from the outdoors bringing parasites or worse with them. Vaccinations and parasite medications may not be right for every cat, but a discussion with our veterinary team can help to explore the right choice for your individual pet.

As for getting your cat to the hospital, this can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. The best method is to train your cat that going in the carrier or on car rides are a positive experience. This is best done as a kitten, but things like treats, leaving carriers out for sleeping in and pheromone using sprays can all help to make even an older cat think that the carrier is a great place to be. The key is conditioning them before the trip occurs, perhaps starting weeks or months ahead of time. The cats that are the happiest at our hospital are the ones for whom the carrier and the car ride are a regular, positive experience. If after training your cat still does not like going for a ride, it is very easy for us to prescribe a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication before their appointment to help make the trip easier on the cat, on you and on everyone involved. Our staff have all taken Fear Free certification and any staff member can help guide you to making the best of a trip in to the hospital for your feline family member.

Indoor or outdoor, every cat should come in to our Hospital every year for a thorough physical examination and health check as well as a discussion of preventative measures that may fit their lifestyle. If you commit to this yearly check-up, we will commit to making it the best possible experience for you and your cat.

-Dr. Rob