Though dogs are known as “man’s best friend,” cats are the most popular pet in America. But because cats can seem self-sufficient and tend to mask their pain, they don’t get as much veterinary care as dogs – about half as much in fact – even though cats also need regular preventative care at all ages. To help veterinarians and pet owners address this issue and develop lifelong health care plans for cats, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) joined forces in 2010 to create the AAFP/AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines.
Preventative care through wellness exams
Preventive veterinary care can improve your cat’s quality of life, detect illness earlier and, as a result, reduce the long-term expenses involved in keeping Tabby healthy. For this reason, semi-annual wellness exams throughout your cat’s life are recommended by veterinarians, with more frequent exams for elderly cats or those with medical or behavioral conditions. These wellness exams are crucial because sick cats often show no sign of disease and their health can change quickly – the sooner a health problem is caught, the better chance there is that your cat will be feeling healthy and frisky again.
Feline life stages
Discussions and treatment at your cat’s wellness exams will vary somewhat over the years, so age designations help focus attention on the physical and behavioral changes that occur at different stages. For example, environmental needs change with life stage; play is a priority for kittens and young cats, while easy access to a comfortable resting spot is more important to elderly cats. At all ages, your veterinarian will want to know about your cat’s nutrition, dental care, whether it ever goes outdoors, daily enrichment activities, and behavior to best tailor a wellness plan for your cat. There’s a lot more that goes into these visits than just vaccinations!
Read more about Feline Life Stage at aaha.org