What to Expect at Your Cat's Annual Checkup

Cat being examined by veterinarian
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Healthy adult cats should have a complete veterinary examination at least once a year.

Your cat may be young in years, but when you're thinking about her health, it's important to remember that she's aging faster than you are. A good rule of thumb is to consider the first two years of a cat's life to be equivalent to 24 human years, and after that, each additional feline year is equal to four human years. For this reason, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends that healthy adult cats should have a complete veterinary examination once a year, and healthy senior cats have one every six months. A lot can happen in a year, especially when your cat can't — or won't — tell you about little aches and pains.

Before you go to your appointment, write down any concerns or changes you want to mention, such as coughing, diarrhea, lethargy, limping, vomiting, eating more or less than usual, weight gain or loss, drinking and urinating more than usual, itching, irritability, hiding or other behavioral changes, running into things, head shaking, or lack of coordination. Your veterinarian will ask you about your cat's health history, if you have any concerns about her health and if you've noticed any changes in her.

Getting Started

It's common for your cat's exam to start with a veterinary technician obtaining a history from you and performing the preliminary examination, which typically includes weight, temperature, pulse and respiration rate. Any changes or abnormalities found during this preliminary exam will be reported to the veterinarian, when she comes in to complete your cat's exam.

At some point during your visit, the veterinary technician may also collect a blood sample. The blood may be used to test for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses or for other conditions. A complete blood count ( CBC) and chemistry panel are especially imperative for older or unhealthy cats. Among other things, the CBC can detect anemia and the presence of many infections, while the chemistry panel can detect problems with many internal organs, including the liver and kidneys. Unless there's a rush, the veterinarian may suggest sending the blood out to a laboratory for this test; it can take a few days for the results to return.

If you did not bring a stool sample, the technician may use a special instrument to collect one from the cat. This specimen will be checked for evidence of intestinal parasites. If kidney disease, diabetes or other conditions are suspected, the veterinarian may also want to examine a urine sample.

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