The Healthcare Needs of Cats

More than many other species, cats need regular preventive healthcare because they are masters of disguise, hiding illness and their signs of sickness are subtle. There is a general misconception that cats are independent and self-sufficient, when, in fact, they are self-reliant. In addition, because many are kept as indoor pets, it is falsely believed that they are free from risk of disease. The solitary nature of cats and the fact that they evolved at risk of being predated upon leads them to be naturally self-defensive, making them challenging for veterinary healthcare teams and clients to work with.

It is essential that the veterinary team deliver a unified message that cats need regular preventive healthcare, as well as routine monitoring of existing disease conditions. It is also important to provide support for clients who we are depending upon to implement our recommendations.

All members of the veterinary healthcare team should recognize and communicate to clients that the following are reasons to seek veterinary care1:

  • Changes in, or inappropriate, elimination behaviour
  • Changes in social interactions
  • Changes in activity
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in food and water consumption
  • Changes in weight – unexplained loss or gain
  • Changes in grooming
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Changes in vocalization
  • Changes in chewing and bad breath

1 Adapted from Have We Seen Your Cat Lately and the Subtle Signs of Sickness (as listed under Resources).


  • Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Bytown Cat Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Diane McKelvey, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital, Kamloops, British Columbia
  • Elizabeth O’Brien, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) The Cat Clinic, Hamilton, Ontario
  • Elizabeth Ruelle, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) Wild Rose Cat Clinic of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
  • Kelly St. Denis, MSC, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice)
  • Margie Scherk, DVM, DABVP (Feline Practice) catsINK, Vancouver, British Columbia

    Please Note: Not all resources are available in both English and French.