Your cat’s exam begins before the vet even touches your cat. As soon as she walks in the room she will be examining your fur baby!
For example, she will be looking at whether the cat is alert or lethargic. Are they calm, scared or potentially fractious? Are they standing upright or lying flat out on the table? Are there any obvious abnormalities physically or with their overall demeanor?
- Skin and coat. It may seem like your vet is just petting and playing with Buttercup, but she is actually examining your cat for any lumps, bumps, hair loss, evidence of fleas or ticks, redness and irritation. These items may require further investigation by your vet.
She will also want to see if their coat is shiny and healthy, if it is matted, or if there is any evidence of your cat not grooming herself like she should be. If your cat is no longer grooming herself, then this can be an indication of an underlying health issue.
- Eyes. Yes, your doctor does enjoy looking longingly into your cat’s eyes just as much as you do. But this observation during the exam will allow your vet to see if there might be an infection, any scratches on the eye, possible vision loss or early signs of cataracts.
- Ears. A cat’s ears are supposed to be light pink in color with little or no visible debris. Red, inflamed ears or large amounts of debris could be indicative of an ear infection.
Your vet will use an otoscope to look inside the ear canal of your cat to see if there is any swelling, debris, or if the ear drum seems healthy. If there is a lot of debris, she may choose to do an ear cytology to screen for a bacterial infection, yeast infection, or mites.
- Neurological exam. Why is your vet poking her finger in your cat’s face? She is looking for any neurological deficits in your cat. Cats should have a normal and even response time from both eyes.If a blink response time is uneven or there is no response, then there may be a problem with the eyes or there is an underlying neurologic issue.
She will also flip over your cat’s paws (if your cat allows it, of course) to make sure your cat rights them herself, rather than them staying flipped the wrong way. A lag in response time for this foot flip test can indicate a lack of communication between the foot and the brain.
- Heart and lungs. Listening to your cat’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope can tell your vet a lot. A cat’s heart should be fast, strong and clear. Their lungs should sound clear with no signs of wheezing. Muffled sounds could indicate a heart murmur or a multitude of lung conditions.
Your cat also has femoral pulses on the inside of their hind legs. When your vet listens to their chest with a stethoscope, they will likely feel the femoral pulse at the same time to make sure they are in sync.
- Abdomen. Everyone loves to cuddle cute cats. But when your veterinarian starts to squeeeeeze your kitty’s belly, she’s not doing it to be cuddly. She is trying to feel the various internal organs in the abdomen.
A normal abdomen should palpate easily. A tense abdomen – or if your cat flinches – could indicate discomfort or pain. There could be pain in this area for a number of reasons. This ranges from an upset stomach, to a foreign body, and many things in between. It is your vet’s job to make a diagnosis and treatment plan for this pet.
- Genitals. Most cats that wander through the office doors are altered due to their propensity for marking territory (males) or escaping and returning pregnant. However, whether they are neutered, spayed or intact, they still have genitals.
Discoloration around the genitals could indicate excessive licking, lack of grooming, or several other issues. Your vet will be looking for blood, discharge, masses, or any other abnormalities in these areas.
- Rectal exam. As cats have a tendency of getting stressed out at the vet in general, it will be at your vet’s discretion as to whether or not a rectal exam will be performed.
Rectal exams in cats are used to get stool samples, check anal glands, feel for abnormal masses, or check the prostate of male cats.