We had a new client call this week to schedule an appointment for his cat, Ron. He said he thought he’d treat Ron with an exam by the vet. Annie was talking to him and she asked him if Ron was due for vaccines. He was shocked and queried, “Cats need vaccines?” It turns out that Ron is 9 and has never been to a vet.
This conversation is a good illustration of the fact that our feline patients are often overlooked in the area of veterinary care. There are many reasons for it: stress to the cat, stress to the owner or the perception that cats don’t really need to be seen by a vet, just to name a few.
It used to be that the main reason any of us brought our pets to the vet was for “shots”. And they all got all their shots every year. While we don’t give vaccinations every year any more, the vaccines are important. I don’t see as many vaccine-preventable illnesses in cats as in dogs, but they are out there. Panleukopenia is the feline version of Parvo and it is just as nasty. I think it is important to keep cats up to date on Rabies as well, especially in indoor/outdoor cats. Cats who roam more freely than dogs are much more likely to encounter wildlife, which is the main place to get Rabies. Your cat’s habits will help you and your vet choose an appropriate vaccination protocol.
Vaccines aside, the benefit of an annual physical exam is immeasurable. Anyone who has had a sick cat knows that they don’t tend to show us signs of illness until they are REALLY sick. A physical exam can be brief, even less than a minute, and still yield lots of information. We can track your cat’s weight, which can be one of the first signs of illness. We can also thoroughly evaluate skin, eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, heart, and abdomen. And we can talk about how your cat is doing. It is helpful if you know how your cat’s appetite is; if he is having vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or sneezing; if there is any change in drinking or urinating; and how his energy level is. All of these can be clues to a health issue.
I hate getting my cat in a carrier as much as the next person. BUT, I know he has to come in at least once a year. With planning, we can get him out, examine him and do anything we need to do (vaccines, bloodwork) within a few minutes. That way, he has as little stress as possible. It always gives me peace of mind to know that Beau’s had a real checkup.
So, yes, cats do need vaccines. And routine healthcare, just like any other patient, canine or human. Give your cat a treat and bring him in for a checkup. You’ll help him live a longer life.