|Just warming up the stethoscope, doc...|
If you only take your kitty to the vet when they are sick, you may be shortchanging the animal - and yourself. Regular checkups can nip illness in the bud and can even help you spend less money overall. A vet may notice symptoms that you would overlook. So give your cat the best, healthiest life possible - a visit every six months is recommended by the American Veterinary Association, though it's possible to push this to a yearly appointment.
At your semi-annual or annual checkup, you will have an opportunity to chat with the vet techs and the veterinarian about your cat's mood, activity level, diet, weight, symptoms, and anything else related to their well being. Kitty will get a general examination, which differs slightly from one office to the next but which will probably include a weigh-in, heart and breathing check, palpation to make sure that there is no swelling or pain in the cat's body, and overall appearance (skin, coat, ears, teeth, eyes, and so on). The vet will also discuss vaccines with you to help determine which ones are best for your pet, and administer if appropriate.
|Palpation to check for swelling or tender areas|
The first (and last) step to a successful vet visit is transport in a safe carrier. If getting your snookums into the darn thing is a particular struggle in your house, get her used to the carrier by leaving it out and available, with treats, toys, and soft blankets inside. Don't treat the carrier as a big deal, and hopefully your cat will grow to see the carrier as a safe and neutral environment. But even if you have to recruit some friends to (gently) stuff your cat into the crate, it needs to be in one! Top loading carriers are easier to get a reluctant cat into, so look for one with both front and top openings.
|Try a top-loading carrier|
Bring a couple treats and toys with you to the visit. Break out the big guns with a treat that the cat rarely gets, like chicken, salmon, or squeezy cheese. An animal that will take a treat is, generally speaking, less stressed. Keep calm, move slowly, and speak softly. Allow the vet tech and vet to control and handle your cat, unless you are specifically asked to assist and feel comfortable doing so. Skillful handling will keep the cat calmer and move the exam along more quickly.
Many vets also allow 'happy visits', when the animal can come into the vet not for a checkup or procedure, but just to get used to the routine and receive attention and affection from the staff. Ask your vet if they support this practice. In extreme cases of vet-phobia, the doctor might recommend a mild tranquilizer, but the majority of cats will not need drugs. Good experiences at the vet will help you to nurture good health for the rest of your cat's life.