What can you expect during your cat’s first visit to a veterinary clinic?
Before you visit the cat doctor for the first time, try to get a copy of your cat’s previous health record from the place you adopted him from. If from a shelter, you should get a report to take with you to your cat’s first veterinary examination.
The report should include the following (but if not, ask about):
- prior vaccinations, including dates
- parasite control
- microchips (to find your cat if he becomes lost)
- spaying or neutering
- tests run for viruses.
If you have other cats at home, and especially if the newcomer’s health history is not known, keep the new cat separated from your other cats until your veterinarian has had a chance to examine him. If no health history is available, your veterinarian will likely run a few tests to determine that your new cat is free from disease.
One of the first tests may be for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). FeLV and FIV weaken the immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to secondary infections and cancer.
Another test will be a fecal sample to test for parasites: intestinal parasites, and external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites (which can transmit other diseases, such as Lyme disease). Your veterinarian can provide effective treatments and control methods for your cat’s internal and external parasites.
Even if your new cat has had previous stool samples examined for internal parasites, it is important to keep in mind they are only snapshots in time of parasite life cycles, and one sample may not reveal all parasites. Having repeat fecal exams is important, especially in kittens. Intestinal parasites deprive the infected cat of important nutrition, causing weakness and susceptibility to viral or bacterial infections. Keeping your cat free of parasites is important for her long-term health.
It is important for your new cat to get a baseline wellness exam and preventive care.
If your cat seems ill, know that upper respiratory tract viruses are extremely common in cats. Yes, cats can catch colds. (Say that five times fast!) They are like a head cold and you may see this in a cat you adopt from a shelter. Most shelters are dealing with hundreds of cats, and just like a child in a classroom, colds spread easily. Most common respiratory viruses will run their course with little treatment as long as a secondary bacterial infection does not cause complications. Make sure your cat is hydrated, eating well and has a place to rest. Other viruses, however, may require more extensive treatment. Your veterinarian can guide you through whether or not treatment is needed.
Your veterinarian can also give you advice on your cat’s nutrition and provide yearly physical examinations to assess the overall health of your feline. (You can find a more detailed vaccination schedule for your cat in a future post here at our blog, and also in the book For Love of Cats.)