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Checklist for a Healthy Cat

Use this checklist frequently to monitor your cat’s health at home. If any problems are identified, call us to schedule an appointment.
  1. My cat is active and alert, in good spirits and appears to be his/her normal self.
  2. Eats normally.
  3. Uses the litterbox regularly and exclusively for bothbowel movements and urination. Does not appear to strain when urinating or defecating.
  4. Has clear, bright eyes.
  5. Has clean ears that are free of debris and do not itch.
  6. Has a glossy coat.
  7. Has white teeth, shrimp-pink gums and no bad breath.
  8. Breathes normally without noise or excessive effort.Does not cough or sneeze.
  9. Has a smooth body with no lumps or bumps felt.
  10. Does not vomit or have diarrhea.
  11. Walks, jumps and stretches without stiffness or pain.
  12. Is maintaining his/her normal weight. (Adult cats)

Dental Health

Have you wondered how to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy? We can teach you how to brush your cat’s teeth using chicken flavored cat toothpaste. Some cat owners detect dental problems by smelling bad breath or catching a glimpse of reddened gums when their kitty yawns. But most dental problems are detected during a physical exam. Dental problems such as broken teeth, holes that develop in cat’s teeth, called resorptive lesions, and infected gums and bone all cause mouth pain.

Many cats are very stoic about pain and do not show it easily, but it just makes sense that these diseases can be very painful. Our pets deserve a mouth free of pain. A dental evaluation is part of every physical exam. Taking dental x-rays during a dental cleaning is standard care at The Cat Hospital.

Dr. Ricksgers is a member of the American Veterinary Dental Society.

For more information about specific dental diseases of the cat, click the link below:
Chronic Feline Gingivo-stomatitis (GS)
Feline Tooth Resorption (FORL, cavities, resorptive lesions, cervical line lesion, neck lesion, carie)

A cat’s dental health status is determined during the yearly physical exam. Many owners also detect dental problems on their own. Cats do feel mouth pain and a change in eating habits can be an indication of a dental problem.

Cats should have shrimp pink colored gums, white teeth and no breath odor. If you notice any of the above not to be true or if your cat is suddenly drooling or having trouble eating please call for a dental evaluation.


For after hours emergencies, you can seek veterinary care at one of the following:

  • Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital, 413-665-4911. This hospital is located in Deerfield, MA.
  • Boston Road Animal Hospital, 413-783-1203. This hospital is located in Springfield, MA.

Both of these practices are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for walk in emergencies.

Our experience has shown that most pet owners did notice a change in their cat’s behavior in advance of what became a true emergency. Trust your own observations of your cat. If you see something worrisome, have your cat examined as soon as possible. Don’t delay. You may be able to avoid a true emergency by addressing your concern sooner rather than later.

Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FeLV/FIV)

The FeLV/FIV status of every cat should be known. A simple blood test will detect these viruses. Both of these viruses are cat viruses that your seemingly healthy cat could be carrying. If your cat has friendly, social contact with other cats or gets into a fight, the FeLV or FIV status may change and your cat will need to be retested.Cats can be protected by vaccines against Feline Leukemia. If your cat can have contact with other cats of unknown status, Feline Leukemia vaccines would be advised in most cases.We see many cats with FIV in our local area. Because our local shelters screen kittens for Feline Leukemia before adoption, there are less cats in our population now testing positive. For local statistics on these viruses, see kittytest.com

Indoor vs. Outdoor Life

Please make this choice with care. Many of our clients are surprised to learn that the national average life expectancy of an indoor cat is 14 years while an outdoor cat’s average is 3 years. The difference is that cats who stay indoors have much less chance of injuries and accidents.

Physical Exam

A Physical exam is performed on both wellness visits and at any time a cat is sick. We’ll start at the tip of the nose and end at the tip of the tail, systematically evaluating the nose, eyes, ears, oral cavity, lymph nodes, thyroid glands, any lumps or bumps, lung and heart sounds, abdominal palpation, haircoat, nails, body condition and weight. Over time, changes may occur in your cat’s physical exam and so for comparison purposes, we will compare current exam findings to previous veterinary records when they are available.


All cats should be kept parasite free. Parasites can rob your cat of important nutrients and cause a variety of symptoms from weight loss to diarrhea. It is not uncommon for us to find parasites on a physical exam, even on exclusively indoor cats.Fleas: There are several effective topical flea products we trust for cats. The cat’s safety is of foremost importance to us in choosing a product. Vectra for Cats, Revolution for Cats and Frontline Plus for Cats are effective and safe products.Of these, Revolution is the most comprehensive product available, licensed to treat both internal worms, fleas, ear mites and is an effective heartworm prevention as well.

Frontline will treat lice and ticks as well, but has no effect on internal worms, heartworms or ear mites. Vectra will take care of all stages of the flea life cycle.

We are happy to go over the current choices for parasite prevention with clients so they can make an informed choice for their cats.

Internal worms: Kittens easily obtain round worms via nursing their infected moms. All kittens are routinely dewormed for roundworms, and other less common parasites can be found via a fecal centrifugation test. Both kittens and adult cats should have fecal testing done on a regular basis, to protech both human and feline health. For information on disease rates of common parasites, click here.

Heartworm: Heartworm disease is preventable in cats but not treatable. Common symptoms are coughing and vomiting. Cats with heartworm disease sometimes die suddenly. Prevention is easy and safe for both indoor and outdoor cats.  Both indoor and outdoor cats can become infected with heartworm. In one study of heartworm in cats, 25% of the cats were listed by their owners as indoor only pets.  Preventative products are Revolution (topical) and Heartgard for Cats. Heartworm is transmitted to a cat by the bite of a mosquito.  Most cats with heartworm disease develop “H.A.R.D.”, an acronym that stands for Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. These cats have an asthma-like reaction to heartwormunder heartworm.

Spay and Neuter

A spayed or neutered cat makes a better pet. A spayed or neutered cat is less likely to wander, spray mark urine and get into cat fights. Altering your cat also lessens the risks of certain types of reproductive cancers. Ideally the surgery is done when the cat is young but it can be done at any age over 2 pounds! An ideal candidate is young but fully dewormed and vaccinated. Our spay and neuter surgery kitties go home in the late afternoon to recover at home with their families.