What is a cat wellness exam?

A cat wellness exam is when you bring your cat into a veterinary hospital for a check-up when they are perceived to be healthy. So you just need a check-up to make sure everything's fine. Sometimes they may also need a vaccine at these well appointments.

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

What will a veterinarian be looking for during my cat’s wellness exam?

I'm glad you asked. We have some instruments that we use. The first thing we do during every cat wellness exam is to ask the owner many questions about appetite, water consumption, urinary habits, litter box behaviors, typical behaviors, how they've been at home, and if there's been anything unusual happening. So that's for the history portion.

The next portion is an examination. So what I do is I start with my ophthalmoscope, and I use it to look in both of the cat’s eyes to make sure that they're bright and shiny. And I can see back to the retina. And this cat has young, shiny, healthy eyes with no conjunctivitis or blinking or winking. The next thing I want to do is turn this into an otoscope so I can see down into their ears. And I can see down in each ear, and I'm looking to make sure there's not any buildup of wax, or any sort of debris in here, any polyps, any bleeding, or anything unusual in the ears.

The next thing I do is an oral exam. I look at the cat’s teeth. They do not like it. I try to take a quick look in there, look on the outside of the teeth, their tongue, underneath the tongue, and at the roof of the mouth. I make sure everything is there and that the gums are nice and pink and moist, and the teeth are nice and clean. And we rate the teeth based on a score of one to four. One is the very best healthy teeth. This kitty here has a one. The next thing I do is feel their lymph nodes, going all the way down there to feel where all their lymph nodes are. We don't want to feel their lymph nodes per se. So it should be just making sure that they're not large and prominent.

And the next thing I do is I listen to their heart and lungs with my stethoscope. I listen on the left-hand side, and I listen on the right-hand side. And I'll take an actual rate. A heart rate in a cat can be anywhere between 150 and 200 beats per minute and be normal. But I'm also listening to the rhythm and making sure that there's not a heart murmur. The other thing we do is we do take their body temperature. There are several ways to do this. This is a rectal thermometer. We can take it rectally. Cats really don't like that. I have one that we put into their ear. The ear ones are less uncomfortable, but they’re also a little bit more challenging to use and get fitted there correctly.

We also hope that most cats are microchipped. And sometimes they have the newer microchips that when we scan their microchip across their backs for their special number to make sure it's there, it will also indicate their body temperature.

I also squeeze their tummy, feel the urinary bladder, the kidneys, and intestines and make sure they're not uncomfortable. I make sure I can feel the organs that are supposed to be there and nothing else. And then lastly, we kind of take a look at the overall way they hold themselves. This cat looks healthy, shiny, happy, well adjusted, and has a nice, shiny, and soft coat. And the cat is not overweight. So we do rate them on their body score—with one being too skinny and nine being too heavy. And five is right in the middle. So I would give this kitty a five. So that's a full physical exam on a cat.

Will my cat's wellness exam require any specific lab work or procedures?

We always give our clients the option to run an early detection profile. That's a CBC chemistry and thyroid test. We hope it's normal every year, but if we find something that's not normal, it gives us a chance to get started and research that before becoming a medical issue.

How does wellness impact the longevity and health of my cat?

The longer you keep them free of diseases and internal and external parasites, enlist ample nutrition, keep them at the right body weight, ensure good dental care, or you pick up a heart murmur or something and address it right away, the longer they will live.

When should I bring my cat in for a veterinary wellness exam?

When they're kittens, they need to come to a series of appointments at eight weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks. And then they'll also likely come in to be spayed or neutered. But after that, an annual exam is probably sufficient. When they're older, it may require two visits a year with blood work and perhaps blood pressure because cats can get hypertension. Sometimes we’ll ask you to bring a fecal in. So we're always going to run a fecal, we're going to run some blood work, and we may take blood pressures as well.

What are some signs and symptoms that my cat might not be feeling well?

When they hide a lot. They don't come and greet you and do their normal behaviors. Maybe they're limping, vomiting, having diarrhea, not eating, sleeping way more than they used to, or not playing. Any change in your cat's routine might alert you to a problem.

Why is early detection so important in the well-being of my cat?

The sooner we find an issue, the better we can treat it and the better the outcome will be.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Wellness Exams - FAQs

Dr. Mary Beth Soverns
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

How often should my cat get a wellness exam?

We recommend that adult cats have a wellness exam at least once every year. When they're older and they're senior cats, and maybe we're following a particular issue, they might need more than one examination or checkup in a year. But as a minimum, cats should get wellness exams once per year.

Is there ever a reason cats will need more than one annual wellness exam?

Yes. Good question. When a cat is a kitten, there are going to be a series of developmental exams—usually starting at eight weeks, then 12 weeks, then 16 weeks. They often correspond with vaccines that need to be done at that time. Then as they grow into adults, we'll see them every single year. Sometimes when they're a senior, we may be following some blood work or some problem, and they might need that to be more frequent than once a year.

My cat seems healthy. Do they really need a wellness exam?

Well, that's the funny thing. They might seem healthy on the outside. When a veterinarian starts to examine them, however, and really gets out the otoscope and an ophthalmoscope and looks in the eye all the way back to the retina, and down the ears, opens up your cat's mouth, looks for dental tartar, dental disease, feels all the lymph nodes, puts on a stethoscope and listens for heart murmurs and arrhythmias, weighs your cat, you could be surprised that we could find and uncover some things that you didn't know just by looking at your cat.

How often does my cat need dental checkups at the veterinarian?

Every time you bring your cat to the veterinarian for a well visit, we'll always look at their teeth and we grade them on a score of one to four, so we can follow the progress. One is the best they can be, four is the worst. So we'll always examine them, examine their teeth with an oral exam, and write a comment on there. So we'll follow that along as we go.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.