Cat Life Stages

After you get a new kitten, it is important to come in for an initial exam and establish care.

Our priorities are to identify any medical problems, develop a long term health plan, and help foster a bond between you and your new pet. During the first exam, we will cover/do a number of things:

  1. First and foremost, we want to make sure your kitten is healthy and address any maladies.
  2. Next, we want to lay out a schedule for updating future vaccines, deworming, spay/neuter, etc., needs. Each individual has a little bit different needs, some cats need more vaccine than others.
  3. Educate, educate, educate, there are so many things to touch on and go over, such as which vaccines to get, which flea product, litter box tips, behavior issues, nutrition, and many, many more. There are so many flea products, that it can be overwhelming. We will help identify which product best suits your pet’s needs.
  4. Answer questions! We want to emphasize that we are a resource for you. We encourage questions. If we don’t have an answer, we’ll do our best to find the answer!

Here is a typical vaccine schedule for kittens (The abbreviations are explained a little further down, and we ideally have the first visit right around 8 weeks of age).

8 weeks Exam
Vaccines: FVRCP #1
12 weeks Vaccines: FVRCP #2, FeLV #1
FeLV/ FIV test
16 weeks Vaccines: FVRCP 1 year, 0FeLV 1 year
20 weeks Spay or Neuter
Rabies 1 year

On the morning of the spay/neuter surgery, we will have you withhold food (no breakfast). We will do a check in procedure between 7:30 and 8:00, during which one of our technicians will go through a checklist/consent form. Your pet will stay with us for the day. The surgery will be done in the morning and he/ she will stay with us until mid to late afternoon for observation. When you come in for pick-up, we will go over home-care instructions.

Vaccine Explanation

Vaccines are important for developing and sustaining a strong immune system. Cats are given an initial vaccine series as kittens. Exams are done yearly after that and are tailored to your cat’s needs. The following is an explanation of our vaccine abbreviations and a brief description of diseases that we are vaccinating against:

Rabies – Rabies is not only a life threatening disease for pets but is also transmissible to people. Because of the public health concern there are many government regulations concerning rabies vaccination. There are potentially harsh consequences if your cat is not current on vaccines.

FVRCP – Often referred to simply as the distemper vaccination:

  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis and Calici virus: These Viruses affect the respiratory system but can also affect the eyes and mouth. They are easily transmissible and highly contagious to other cats.
  • Panleukopenia (also called distemper): This is also a highly contagious virus and is similar to the parvo virus that dogs get. As with Parvo, panleukopenia causes severe intestinal disease. It can also cause neurologic disease.

Leukemia (often written as ‘FeLV’, for feline leukemia virus) – Leukemia is a serious viral infection that can lead to spontaneous neoplasia and/or suppression of the immune system. Not all cats are affected the same, following exposure variable outcomes are possible. They may fight off the infection, develop a transient infection and become carriers, or develop a serious persistent infection.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – FIV is another serious viral infection causing immune suppression. Various persistent or recurrent disease syndromes are seen with this disease. As with leukemia, some cats can be carriers and appear outwardly healthy. The disease is transmitted primarily by bite wounds. Unfortunately, there is not an effective vaccine for this disease.

FeLV and FIV Testing – A simple blood test can be run to check your cat. We recommend testing new cats, kittens, sick cats, previously untested cats, and cats that may have been exposed. FeLV or FIV positive cats may live for months to years. Effective FeLV or FIV management is aimed at preserving the health of the infected cat: preventing the spread of infection: and early recognition/ treatment of associated diseases.

General Health Topics for your Cat

  • Yearly Exams – Cats are unable to “voice” their discomforts. A complete history and physical exam can reveal problems that allow us to improve your cat’s quality of life.
  • Intestinal Parasites – Round worms, hook worms, tape worms, and coccidia are common parasites that we treat. Kittens are especially prone to parasites and we typically deworm them with each initial vaccine visit. The need for adult cats to be dewormed depends on their “lifestyle”. Fleas often carry tapeworm eggs, which can lead to tapeworm infestations in your cat.
  • Flea Products – There are many products available from numerous sources with widely varying effectiveness. We most commonly recommend Advantage and Revolution. They are safe and very effective. Each individual pet has different needs, and each product has different features that it offers – we can help what suits your pet best!
  • Ovariohysterectomy (spay) and Castration (neuter) – We recommend surgery between 5-6 months of age. There is such a problem with cat over-population that keeping a cat for breeding is rarely appropriate. Intact females readily get pregnant and contribute to over population issue. Males roam, fight, and transmit disease. So, unless you are a committed breeder and improving a specific line of purebred cats, then it is very important to get your cats spayed and neutered.
  • Anesthesia – There are numerous procedures that require anesthesia. We have an excellent safety record but there are always risk factors involved with anesthesia. To help eliminate risks we recommend pre-operative blood work. This helps us evaluate internal body systems. The specific blood work that we recommend depends on your cat’s age and condition. We have numerous anesthetic monitoring devices as well. The anesthetic agents that are used now, are much safer than what were used even 10 years ago.
  • Dental Health – Routine dental exams and dental cleanings are an important part of preventative medicine. Special toothbrushes, toothpaste, treats, chew toys, and prescription diets are also available to aid in dental care. Providing good dental health for your cat can add years to its life. As your pet gets older, regular dental cleanings may become important for preserving healthy teeth.
  • Emergency Service – During working hours we are available for emergency needs. Emergency Veterinary Hospital is available for after hour and weekend needs. They are located in Springfield just two blocks from us (near intersection of Pioneer Parkway and Q Street). The phone number is 541-746-0112.
  • Nutrition – Nutrition has a major impact on an individual’s health and lifespan.
    Pet food labels can be misleading. A food may have 15% crude protein listed, but that does not mean it is digestible. A leather shoe is a good example, it has as much as 10% protein. BUT it is not digestible = the body cannot utilize it. SO, BEWARE = labels can be misleading.It can be hard to determine if a food is of good quality, marketing is extremely aggressive. Raw meat, no corn, grain free, may have some value for certain individuals – but for the most part they are just marketing buzz words. Some dogs genuinely have underlying gastrointestinal issues and need a specialized diet, in these cases, veterinary guidance is strongly recommended. Avoid low cost foods, but at the same time don’t assume that a food is good just because it’s expensive.
  • Behavioral Issues – We deal with many behavioral issues. For cats, the most common behavioral issue (by far) is inappropriate urination. Social pressures, litter preference, number of litter boxes, location of litter box, lifestyle changes; any of these can lead to inappropriate urination. It is their way of expressing anxiety but is disproportionately offensive to us! It is important to discuss with us.
    • The more cats you have, the more likely you are to have inappropriate urination. (Social Anxiety)
    • Outdoor cats can cause anxiety too, cats may not recognize windows and screen as boundaries the way we do.
    • Some cats have very strong preferences for litter types, some feel different and some smell different. Cats have a much better developed ability to smell than we do and many of the litter types are excessively scented.
    • Litter box location can be important. Locating litter boxes away from loud noises such as the dryer (buzzer). Locating litter boxes in areas where they don’t feel cornered (by “˜bully’ housemates).
    • The number of litter boxes can be important too. If in doubt, it is a good idea to have one more litter box than the number of cats. Plus have them located conveniently throughout the house.
    • Frequency of cleaning is important. Some cats refuse to use a dirty litter box!

Adult Stage

At this stage of a cat’s life, they should be happy, healthy, and having relatively few problems. However, some cats do have problems and the best way for us to help is to have regular check-ups. Some of the conditions we see are:

  • Dental disease – even in youth, some cats have significant dental disease
  • Skin disease – usually fleas, but other allergies occur too.
  • Overweight – while young, being heavy is often tolerable, but with age it can genuinely lead to more and more problems
  • Behavior – Numerous cats have behavior issues that we can address
  • Stiffness – Joint stiffness is a common problem and manageable in most cases
  • Infectious disease – which we try to prevent through vaccination

Those are typical issues, of course there can be many others issues ranging from bite wounds, trauma, leg injuries, internal organ disease, metabolic disease, etc.

Senior Stage

At what age does a cat become a senior? It really seems to vary with the individual, generally we think of it as around 10 years of age. It is important to emphasize that each individual is different, age related issues vary greatly especially with cats.

All of the conditions listed amongst adults also apply to seniors; to an even greater degree! Regular exams become even more important. Regular lab-work is very helpful in identifying internal organ disease and endocrine disease early in their course.

  • Dental disease – becomes more problematic with age and can impact overall health profoundly
  • Skin disease – ongoing issue for some cats
  • Overweight – really causes issues with senior cats, especially with joint stiffness
  • Behavior – some cats mellow with age, and some…become problematic
  • Urinary Issues – can continue to be a problem
  • Infectious – especially if going outside regularly is an issue
  • Organ disease – kidney, liver, etc. can develop disease – blood work is key to identifying
  • Endocrine disease – diabetes and hyperthyroidism are seen surprisingly often
  • Arthritis – reduced mobility, decreased jumping, etc. – there are medications that can help

Regular exams and routine lab work can help catch things early. Management of disease is much easier if caught earlier.