Everyone ages on a spectrum, and individuals age at different rates. One convenient way to classify cats based on age is as follows:
- Kitten: up to 6 months
- Junior: 7 months - 2 years
- Adult: 3 - 6 years
- Mature or middle aged: 7-10 years
- Senior: 11-14 years
- Geriatric: 15+ years
Adult cats need regular check ups (every 6 to 12 months) to:
- Monitor for appropriate body weight and body condition score
- Monitor for early detection of disease such as obesity, periodontal disease, and others
- Evaluate for parasites and maintain a healthy parasite control program that protects both the cat and the family.
- Address behavior issues
- Implement a vaccine series to protect from preventable infectious diseases
Getting your cat to the vet
Socialize cats as early as possible to the carrier and to traveling:
- Keep the transport carrier out and accessible in the home
- Make the carrier a comfortable resting, feeding, or play location
Minimize the stress of the office visit:
- Withholding food prior to car travel may reduce motion sickness, increase interest in treats at the hospital, and can be beneficial if blood is to be collected for testing.
- Use of Feliway (a calming synthetic pheromone) and/or familiar clothing from a favorite person prior to transporting may reduce the cat?s anxiety.
- Provide cover/hiding options in or over the carrier, such as a towel draped over the carrier.
Environmental Enrichment and Quality of Life
Keeping cats inside protects them from a variety of injuries and infectious disease and makes it easier to monitor for subtle changes. Enriching the environment or allowing cats to be in a strictly supervised outdoor environment or enclosure is key to providing quality of life.
Provide for the basic needs:
- Personal space, such as hiding spots and elevated resting spots (perches)
- Horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces
- Clean litter boxes (# cats in house + 1)
- Clumping litter, uncovered boxes, on average, are preferred, but individual preferences exist
- Variety of toys, possibly in a rotation
- Companionship with regular human interaction
Adult cats should have the following vaccines:
- FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia) vaccine:
- Core vaccine (all cats need this)
- Recommended only every 3 years after the initial vaccine series is complete
- Rabies vaccine:
- Core vaccine (all cats need this)
- Boost yearly
- Note***: We use a non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats. (See note below regarding adjuvant). This vaccine is labeled for yearly boosters. If the manufacturer gains USDA approval for longer booster intervals, then we will legally be able to reduce the frequency of this vaccine.
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia) Vaccine:
- Non-core vaccine: recommended only for at risk cats
- Boost yearly if indicated by risk of exposure
*** Adjuvant is a chemical that is added to vaccines to encourage a stronger response from the patient's immune system. However, it also appears to increase the risk of vaccine-related skin tumors. We use only cat vaccines without adjuvant, and vaccinate only as much as is medically indicated, in order to reduce the risk of vaccine-associated sarcomas in our feline patients. ***
In the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"> Gulf Coast region, which is endemic for heartworms, all cats need a monthly heartworm preventive.
Cats should be checked for intestinal parasites
- 1-2 times a year
- If parasites are found, a follow up test should be performed to verify successful treatment
- See the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) Guidelines and info available at www.petsandparasites.com
Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Testing
Testing for FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is indicated:
- Yearly if there is potential for exposure (especially unsupervised outdoor activity)
- Prior to vaccinating for FeLV virus
- For all sick cats
- Prior to entering a new household, regardless of age
- 28 days or more after potential exposure to FeLV, and 60 days or more after potential exposure to FIV
Early Disease Detection Testing
Regular early detection testing can :
- Allow early detection of disease or trends in clinical or laboratory values that may be of concern.
- Provide a baseline for interpretation of data in later visits.
A goal of 3 early detection screens before age 7 is a good rule of thumb
Testing should include:
- Complete blood count
- Serum chemistry panel
Additional tests may be indicated if evidence of a problem is found.