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December 12, 2017
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community living

Indoor-only cats: Are vet visits needed?

Keeping a cat indoors is a very responsible decision, especially when being concerned about the safety not only of your cat, but also of the local wildlife population. Indoor/outdoor cats exercise their complete predatory instincts and are responsible for the devastation of many birds, rodents and other small animals. Some of them may be endangered. But while living indoors is certainly safer overall than living outdoors for a cat, and indoor living contributes to a longer life expectancy, regular veterinary care is still very important.


Being sure that your feline companion is current on his/her vaccines is an important component of overall health. Feline rhinotracheitis virus, feline calici virus, and feline panleukopenia virus make up the feline distemper complex. Vaccination is important, as these viruses can be deadly. They are hardy viruses that can be brought into the home on inanimate objects such as clothes and shoes. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has published vaccination guidelines. You should discuss with your family veterinarian your cat’s distemper vaccine schedule.

Rabies is a very important virus that not only affects animals, but humans as well. If a person or animal becomes infected with rabies it is nearly always fatal, and in efforts to decrease the risk of disease spread, New York State mandates all dogs and cats be current on their rabies vaccine. Some commercially available vaccines are good only for one year no matter when and how they are boostered, while others are good for three years.


Let’s say that your cat is current on its rabies vaccine, as you visit the local county-sponsored rabies clinics. Is that all you have to do for your feline friend? No. While the rabies vaccine clinics are a great way to decrease the risk of rabies spreading from wildlife to domestic pets and then humans, the clinic veterinarians do not perform physical examinations. A physical exam is a very important diagnostic test that all cats should have done at least once per year. After a cat reaches seven years of age, it should have an examination twice every year. During an examination, your cat’s weight is recorded and all of their body systems are inspected for abnormalities or variations. Your veterinarian will use an ophthalmoscope to look at the back of its eyes. The reason for this is that many cats suffer from high blood pressure. Increased blood pressure can have serious effects on your cat’s vision and even cause it to go blind. Cats will have their mouths looked at for any signs of dental disease. A stethoscope will be used to listen for any heart murmurs or abnormal lung sounds. Their abdomens will be examined for any organ-size abnormalities or pain. All the joints will be examined for appropriate musculature range of motion, or swelling. The skin, fur, ears and rectal region will be examined for any signs of parasites, infection, or tumors.

Laboratory testing

Blood work is an important component to preventative healthcare for cats. Older cats are especially at risk for chronic kidney failure. Many cats also suffer from over-active thyroids (hyperthyroidism), which cause them to lose weight despite good appetite. These are some of the many diseases that can be found in regular blood work. If discovered early and properly addressed, they have very good outcomes.

Being an indoor-only cat is not a good enough reason not to seek routine preventative veterinary care for your feline.

[Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, D.V.M. of Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC can be contacted at Visit or]