How to tell if your cat needs to see a vet

While no one likes going to the vet with their pet, new research has found that half of Australian cat owners admit they avoid regularly checking their pet.

A recent survey by pet food company Royal Canin found that one in two Australian cats does not have regular, routine health checks and instead owners wait until a problem or emergency arises.

The study found that almost a quarter of cat owners found visiting the vet a stressful experience, with 8 percent blaming getting their furry friend in the carrier in the first place and 66 percent saying they would visit the vet more often if this were the case it was easier to do.

Then there’s the fact that cats are more likely than dogs to mask symptoms of pain or illness – which, warns Royal Canin vet Dr. Chantelle McGowan, can lead to potentially serious health problems going undetected.

“Cats are masters at hiding pain and illness, and many pet owners fail to recognize the signs that something may be wrong, and this results in long periods of undiagnosed and treated health problems,” says Dr. McGowan.

Dr. Martine Van Boeijen of Perth Cat Hospital, a veterinarian who specializes in feline medicine, agrees that cats tend to show more subtle symptoms than their canine counterparts.

“Signs of illness can include a slight change in behavior or sleep patterns, increased hiding and changes in your appetite or toilet habits,” she says. “Some cats who are not feeling well can start using the toilet outside of their litter box.”

Even common problems like dental disease can often go unnoticed, even when the animal is in severe pain. “Most cats with dental disease continue to eat well so their owners don’t know their cat is suffering,” she says.

“Arthritis is another cause of chronic pain that even the most attentive cat owners can easily miss.

“Other common conditions cats can hide symptoms include chronic pancreatitis, heart disease, and urinary tract problems such as cystitis and kidney disease.”

Dr. Van Boeijen says all cats need regular veterinary checkups to make sure they are happy and healthy.

“The frequency of cat health screening depends on the cat’s age, but if they have health concerns, the general recommendation is at least annually for cats up to seven years of age and at least twice annually for cats over seven years of age,” says she. “In addition to some routine laboratory tests such as blood and urine tests and a blood pressure measurement in older cats, the health check includes a full physical examination by your veterinarian.

“Every health plan should be tailored to the individual circumstances of each cat.”

Some of the warning signs that your cat is not doing well

– “Cats with dental disease can make unusual head or jaw movements while eating, or sniffing around their food, and they can be picky about certain foods or food structures,” says Dr. Van buoys.

– “Signs such as abnormal behavior in the litter box, repeated vomiting, fatigue, changes in appetite, weight loss, frequent hairballs, and changes in behavior can all be signs that your cat has an underlying health problem that needs veterinary attention,” says Dr. McGowan.

“Cats with joint pain may show a decreased ability to jump up or down from a height, show reluctance to play with their toys, sleep more, and be reluctant to go up and down stairs,” says Dr. Van buoys. “They can also develop some matting on their fur because they cannot groom themselves properly.”