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Cat routine check up

Wellness Screenings for Cats: The Essential Guide to Cat Health Checks

Your cat may be independent, but that doesn't mean you don't need to plan for their health and wellbeing. As well as getting into a regular routine when it comes to pest prevention, it's essential to get your cat checked out by your vet or vet nurse regularly. 

Think of this check-up as a health MOT for your cat and a chance for a hands-on examination to nip any developing health issues in the bud. 

 There are two types of cat health checks: 

  • Wellness screening or early detection tests, which are designed for adult cats aged seven and over 

  • Six-monthly examinations, which are recommended for all cats, regardless of age  

What is wellness screen​ing?  

Wellness screenings give vets and vet nurses a chance to thoroughly assess your cat for potential or underlying health conditions. These comprehensive cat health checks will help determine if your feline is fit, healthy and happy. 

What’s the difference between wellness screenings and routine health checks for cats?

Wellness screenings are health checks designed especially for cats who are seven and over and give them a comprehensive health check beyond what younger cats receive at their six-month checkups. It looks at blood, blood pressure and urinalysis, giving your vet an incredibly detailed view of your cat’s health. Adult and senior cats should have a wellness screening once a year.  

Routine health checks, meanwhile, are recommended every six months for all cats and kittens and involve general physical welfare and a basic urine test. Those on a preventative health plan, such as Pet Health Club™, get these twice a year as part of their subscription.   

Read more: How to collect a urine sample from your cat

Ginger cat having a routine health check

What's in the wellness screening?

Your cat’s wellness screening will include a:  

  • Physical exam   

  • Clinical history  

  • Wellness blood screening profile  

  • Urine screening   

  • Blood pressure measurements  

Physical exam

The physical exam is crucial in deciding if there are any physical problems with your cat. Your vet will check your cat’s a healthy weight and look at their coat which can show underlying health conditions. Your vet will also check your cat’s gums, teeth, eyes and ears to spot early signs of gum disease, cataracts and ear infections. They will also check your cat’s breathing and lungs with a stethoscope.  

Complete clinical history 

Student vets are taught that diagnosis is revealed in the patient's history. Listen to your patients, their professors say, they're telling you the diagnosis. So many of the decisions vets and vet nurses make, around procedures, treatments and care, are guided by the information in the clinical history.   

Urinalysis test 

Urine tests are often conducted in two parts. The first is a urine test strip. This is where the urine's appearance, concentration and content are examined to detect urinary tract infections, kidney disease and diabetes.   

The second test measures your cat's urine-specific gravity (USG). Highly concentrated urine may signify bleeding or inflammation in the urinary tract. This could lead to kidney stones or crystals in the urinary tract. A low concentration might indicate kidney failure. Other than going to the litter tray more often, your cat may not show any signs of these issues, so urine tests are crucial.   

The urinalysis can also show abnormalities that need further examination, including blood, sugar and protein levels in the urine, which might be a sign of kidney and liver issues and, in the case of sugar, diabetes.

Blood tests

Blood tests can be used to analyse your cat's internal organs, measure their blood health and potentially uncover hormonal imbalances or underlying health issues, such as kidney or liver disease. For example, if your cat suffers from problems going to the toilet, or diabetes, the blood test can help track any subtle changes that might cause bigger problems later.  

The blood test includes a T4 test. This looks for hyperthyroidism which can result in rapid weight loss and increased appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and hyperactivity. Because changes due to hyperthyroidism affect other organs, secondary medical problems often follow. Therefore, it's important to catch hyperthyroidism early.  

During the blood test, a small amount of blood will be taken from the vein on the leg, but in some cases, it may be easier to take the blood from the jugular vein. In either case, your cat will not have to undergo anaesthetic, and they should feel little discomfort.   

Blood pressure

High blood pressure, known as hypertension, can be easily measured using a small cuff placed on your cat's leg or tail., It can occur because of kidney disease or be a side effect of certain medications. Hypertension is a silent illness with very few clinical signs. However, regular blood pressure readings will help find issues before your cat's heart, kidneys and general wellbeing are affected.  

What’s covered in the regular six-month health check?

During a routine six-monthly health check, your cat will receive a complete, hands-on examination to find conditions that may need treatment and stop any potential problems from worsening.   

Six-monthly routine health checks for your cat are included in Pet Health Club™ members' subscriptions. Your vet or vet nurse will check your cat’s:  

  • Lungs, using a stethoscope   

  • Heart, to detect any heart murmur or irregular heartbeat  

  • Stomach, for swelling, pain or abnormalities 

  • Weight   

  • Temperature  

  • Ears and eyes  

  • Dental check looking for tartar, plaque and signs of gum disease  

  • Fur and skin for dryness, sores, fleas or ticks  

  • Joints, for normal movement   

  • Genitals for discharge or abnormalities  

white cat having a routine health check

Why are routine health checks vital for cats?

It can be challenging to know if cats are uncomfortable or unwell. However, regular wellness screenings allow your vet or vet nurse to spot potential health problems before they become too serious. This enables them to recommend treatments or lifestyle changes, which should save you money in the long term, as prevention is always cheaper than cure.   

Health checks are also an excellent way to help your cat get used to going to the vet and being handled by people they may not know.

How often should my cat have a health check?

Your cat should have a routine health check every six months from kittenhood. For adult cats (aged seven and above), we recommend having a wellness screening annually on top of their six-monthly check.  

Which cats are at the most risk of illness?

Pedigree cats are often at risk of inherited health issues because of inbreeding and selective breeding. For example, Persian cats are at higher risk of polycystic kidney disease, which can result in chronic kidney disease.   

Some cats are brachycephalic, meaning they have broad, short snouts that restrict their breathing and make them vulnerable to upper respiratory infections.

maine coon outdoors

Do I need to prepare in advance?

For wellness screening appointments, you should ensure your cat doesn’t eat any food for 12 hours beforehand (they are allowed water). You will also be asked to bring a urine sample. Having a list of potential questions might help and be ready to share any changes in your cat’s behaviour or wellbeing.  

How long will it take to receive results?

Positive results are usually emailed or sent by text within 10 days. If a wellness screening or routine check-up reveals any potential health issues, your vet or vet nurse will call you to discuss the next steps.  

What happens if the cat health check shows a potentially serious issue?

If the health check flags a potentially serious issue, then it's important not to panic. Your vet or vet nurse will call you to discuss the potential causes and available treatment options. Then, you can discuss and decide the best and most cost-effective plan for treating your cat.  

How can routine cat health checks save you money?

Wellness screening acts as an early warning system, highlighting potential issues that could result in hefty vet bills if left untreated. Managing these issues early will allow them to be treated quickly and easily. Some serious health conditions are irreversible, so quick intervention to slow disease progression is vital.   

How much does a cat health check cost?

Six-monthly health checks are free for Pet Health Club members. Wellness screening for your adult cat will cost £85, but members of Pet Health Club™ receive a 25% discount.  

The importance of annual vaccinations for your cat

Protecting your kitten against infectious diseases is crucial to responsible pet ownership. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is to ensure your new kitten is fully vaccinated against the most common diseases.    

Some diseases, such as feline panleukopenia, can survive in the environment for long periods, which is why it's so important to keep up to date with their vaccinations and flea and worm treatments. 

Your vet or vet nurse will be able to give your cat their annual boosters at their wellness screening, minimising the travel to and from the practice, resulting in a happier, less stressed feline friend.