In addition to examining your cat regularly at home for early signs of illness, it's also a good idea to take him or her to the vet for an annual wellness check up. This can be crucial when it comes to detecting subtle changes in your pet's health, especially important for a species likely to hide illness until it becomes severe.
Your vet will want to check your cat over thoroughly at least once a year, more frequently if your cat is older or has special medical needs. Regular check ups are important to keep your cat healthy and prevent certain diseases. Your vet will check your cat over, including listening to his/her heart and lungs, palpating his/her abdomen, checking for skin/coat problems and checking eyes and ears for example.
Yearly vaccinations are important for disease prevention and include vaccination against cat flu (feline herpes virus, calici virus), feline enteritis (feline parvovirus), feline leukaemia virus and feline chlamydophila (a bacteria causing conjunctivitis). Rabies vaccination will be required if you plan to take your cat out of the UK as part of the ‘Pet Passport’ scheme.
Fleas, ticks and worms
Another subject you should discuss with your vet is the control of fleas and ticks. Remember that fleas, or at least their larvae, can live year-round in your home and garden and ticks can transmit nasty diseases. Vets can advise on tape and roundworm prevention too.
If you do not plan to breed from your cat neutering is recommended to prevent unwanted kittens, as well as health problems including some types of cancer and some infectious diseases. If you have a new kitten; talk to your vet about the best time for neutering and if you have adopted an un-neutered cat discuss neutering as soon as possible, as well as an appropriate diet for the neutered cat to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Changes in behaviour or problem behaviours such as inappropriate urination can indicate an underlying disease or behavioural problem so discuss with your vet, who may recommend your cat is referred to a trained behaviourist.
Cats rarely show their owners signs of a dental problem so it is important the vet checks his/her teeth. Dental disease is common in cats, especially as they get older and can be very painful and require dental procedures to be performed. Home care can also be discussed as, with training, cats will allow their owners to clean their teeth.
Weight and body condition
Obesity is a common problem in cats so take this opportunity to weigh your cat and discuss his/her body condition. You can discuss a diet plan and ways to increase your cat’s activity or perhaps join a weight loss scheme run by your veterinary practice, if available. Equally if your cat has lost weight since he/she was last weighed this could be a sign of a health problem.
If your cat is getting older, more regular check ups are recommended. This should include measurement of blood pressure if indicated. You can talk about any problems you have noticed, however small with your vet. Discuss food and water intake, activity level and any other concerns. Just like people, senior cats may suffer from various organ system problems, osteoarthritis, loss of vision or hearing, and even memory loss or dementia. Cats are very good at hiding signs of disease so your vet can advise you what to look out for. Luckily, many problems can be successfully managed with medication or simple changes to their lifestyle.