A recent national study found that Americans keep many more cats than dogs as pets, but only half as many cats are seen by a veterinarian for routine yearly examination. The top reason for not bringing their cat in yearly for examination was that owners didn’t think their cat needed an examination if they were ‘acting fine.’ Remember, the healthy cat sleeping in the window looks just like the unhealthy cat sleeping in the window!

The following is a list of some illnesses that cats commonly get, even if they live entirely indoors:

  • Tartar, gingivitis
  • Periodontal disease, resorptive lesions
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Heartworms Fleas, internal parasites
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder stones, urinary tract disease
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer

During a physical examination, your veterinarian checks out your cat’s ears, eyes, skin and coat. They feel for abnormal thyroid glands or enlarged lymph nodes. They look at the teeth and gums for tartar, gingivitis or oral lesions. They gently press on the throat to detect irritation and place a stethoscope on the chest, listening for heart murmurs, an abnormal heart rhythm or abnormal lung sounds. They feel the abdomen to detect discomfort, enlarged organs or masses. Each time your pet is examined, it is weighed, and the weight is compared to previous visits to detect any unexpected changes. Your veterinarian asks questions about how your cat is behaving, if there have been changes in your cat’s appetite or drinking, if there have been changes in litter box habits or if your cat is not as active as it once was. There is a lot of information that is gathered during a physical exam!

Cats can develop quite a few problems that can be painful, uncomfortable or even life-threatening, but they may not show outward signs that are easy to detect. Any major change in your cat’s behavior warrants a visit to your veterinarian to find out if something is wrong. Many diseases, if caught early, can be treated or managed to improve the quality and length of your cat’s life.


Most cats with fleas do not itch, unless they have a flea allergy. Even if cats do not venture outside, fleas can hitch a ride indoors on people and infest your pet and house.

Internal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms can be carried indoors by insects, so all cats should be routinely dewormed and their feces checked twice yearly for intestinal parasites.

Mosquitoes carry heartworm, a tiny parasite that enters the bloodstream and can cause significant lung disease in cats. There is no treatment for cats with heartworm, but monthly prevention is available.

By the time they reach 13 years of age, 60% of cats have arthritis, but they rarely cry and may not limp. Getting old isn’t a disease and doesn’t cause cats to slow down, but being uncomfortable or painful does!

Schedule an examination for your cat now – you’ll both be glad you did!