Ask A Vet: What Are The Top 5 Reasons My Cat Should See A Vet?

Cats are fairly healthy animals, but sometimes they need to see a vet for more than just preventive care. Veterinary Pet Insurance tracked the reasons that cats were seen by veterinarians in 2007. They published the results of their study. Their findings mostly mirrored what I see in my practice but I’m going to write about my specific experience in hopes that the information will help everyone who loves cats. The VPI study is also a few years old and my information is my current impression of the most common reasons that cats see me.

I think one of the most common causes for a my cat visits is bite wound abscesses. Cats have a unique ability to wall off infection and isolate it away from the rest of the body. This is a lifesaving tendency for the species, but it does create some pretty nasty abscesses. These wounds have a very distinctive presentation (from the way the patient is acting to the type of drainage coming from the wound). Affected cats are typically very painful over the area where the abscess is and have a marked fever. Cats host a type of bacteria in their mouths that infects other cats at the site of a bite. You may not realize your cat was bitten until a few days later when the bacteria has grown enough to create a painful abscess. Because of the level of pain you will need your veterinarian’s help to sedate and care for your cat’s wound.

I commonly treat cats for urinary tract issues. These issues range from inappropriate urination to urinary obstruction and many can be attributed to feline lower urinary tract disease. Symptoms of lower urinary tract disease can include frequent urination of small amounts of urine or straining to produce only drops. Affected cats may yowl when attempting to use the litter box. They may also choose to urinate in other places because they associate the litter box with pain. Humans in the environment may notice drops of blood or blood tinged urine outside the box or even in odd places, like the bathtub or sink. Affected cats may select surfaces that are smooth and cool in an attempt to soothe the burning. Treatment of these types of issues can vary, so see your vet if you think your cat may be experiencing lower urinary tract disease.

Another common presenting complaint is vomiting. It seems like all cats vomit sometimes, but recurrent vomiting or protracted vomiting is not normal. If vomiting is accompanied by other signs of disease like lethargy or anorexia, it is more likely to require veterinary care. Cats can eat things that are not digestible, like string or rubber bands and these objects will cause vomiting. Indigestible items are considered foreign bodies and can require emergency surgery. Your veterinarian will be able to help you differentiate what could be causing your cat to vomit.

Another common concern with cats is kidney disease. I make this diagnosis with sad regularity. Diagnosis requires blood and urine tests and a thorough examination. If renal failure is appropriately managed and diagnosed early, you can add 1 to 3 years to your cat’s life over an untreated cat. No one has a proven theory for why cats seem to be over-represented for this disease, but your veterinarian can describe dietary management, as well as what medications will delay the progression of disease.

Diarrhea is something that I see repeatedly in cats. Cats can be affected by gastrointestinal parasites, dietary intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease and bacterial/viral infection, among other things. Some cases of diarrhea are mild and short lived, but diarrhea that does not resolve quickly may need professional help. Your vet will probably ask for a stool sample and may recommend some diagnostic testing. He or she will tell you any diet recommendations or fasting period that may be necessitated by the disease process and make sure your cat’s issue is being addressed with medication where needed.

These all are the top five reasons that cats come to my animal hospital for treatment. In some cases, we can cure the issue, but in some cases disease management is the goal. Rest assured that seeking professional help will be in your cat’s best interest. Find a veterinarian that you trust so that you can build a partnership for your cat’s best life.


vet thumbnailAbout The Vet: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to an article for Prevention magazine and Woman’s Day in Feb 2014 and June 2015 on shelves now.

She has a social media presence on TwitterFacebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She is a regular contributor to Boomeon, the online community which can be found at . She has also written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website,

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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