You most likely prepare questions for your own doctor’s appointments, so why not do the same for your cat? “If you are coming in for your cat’s annual wellness visit or a sick visit, write down your questions ahead of time,” says Dr. Elizabeth A. Dole, a veterinarian who practices at Stack Veterinary Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y.
Questions to Ask
Most veterinarians start your cat’s exam by asking you questions to rule out any serious feline diseases. They may inquire whether your cat has been vomiting, had diarrhea or shown any change in thirst, urination or appetite. Excessive thirst or urination, for example, could be signs of feline diabetes or kidney disease. After fielding those queries, it’s your turn to do the questioning. Here is a list of the top 10 questions to ask.
1. Is my cat at the appropriate weight?
Obesity is a growing concern in pets, as it is in people. “It has all sorts of health implications for the heart, joints, liver and kidneys,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and a veterinary professor at Texas A&M University.
2. How are my cat’s teeth and gums?
Tooth deterioration, tartar buildup and gum disease get worse as an animal gets older. “Infections of the gums can spread to other areas of the body,” explains Beaver. It’s important that kittens get used to having their mouths cleaned to allow you to brush their teeth and remove tartar buildup.
3. When should my cat have blood work done?
Blood tests can pick up certain congenital ailments, such as kidney disease. Some veterinarians take a baseline screening on a pet’s first visit, but it’s a good idea to have a screening done on a senior cat, generally after age 10, says Dole.
4. What should I feed my cat and/or kitten?
Feed your cat food that carries the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal for complete and balanced nutrition, say experts. For kittens, it’s important to feed them canned and dry foods; however, they may need more moisture in their diet as they age, or if they develop kidney disease or bladder stones, says Dole.
5. Does my cat need exercise?
A regular program of exercise and environmental enrichment is important, particularly for indoor cats. Have your cats chase toys up and down stairs, or use a laser or dream catcher to interact with them.
6. How often should I bring my pet in?
Pet owners usually get in the habit of bringing cats in for an annual checkup, although sometimes that stretches to 16 months between visits. Senior cats require biannual visits. “It’s best if we can catch things early so we can intervene and help prolong and improve the quality of a pet’s life,” says Dole.
7. What are the latest vaccine recommendations?
Vaccinations have saved millions of cats’ lives. The latest recommendation is that the last round of cat vaccines should be administered after a kitten is 16 weeks old, according to Dole. It’s also critical to get any follow-up booster shots.
8. How can I administer my cat’s medication properly?
If your veterinarian prescribes medicine for your cat, you should always ask for clarification on the directions, says Beaver. “If you give your pet medication the wrong way, it doesn’t help them and can potentially have serious consequences.”
9. Is generic medication available?
Prescription medications for cats can be as expensive as those for humans. Ask your veterinarian if generics are available. If they are, find out the difference — if any — compared to brand-name products. While generics exist, veterinarians may not carry all varieties, although they usually try to provide economical options.
10. How much does it cost?
Don’t be afraid to question your veterinarian’s recommendation, particularly if it calls for an expensive surgical procedure. “You should also ask whether there are alternatives,” says Dole. And don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
Elizabeth Wasserman, a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.