Do you cringe when your cat’s postcard comes in? Do you dread the upcoming manhunt and ensuing battle to coax him into the carrier for his trip? Does everyone seem to turn and stare when you struggle into the waiting room with a bulky box that’s emitting these ominous growling and spitting sounds? Do you think you heard the staff drawing straws in the hallway to see who would have to work with you?

I know you’re not bringing him in because of it. His visits, however, are essential to maintaining quality of life and making him last as long as possible. Why? Because cats are uniformly tight-lipped about their illnesses, aches, and pains. We often don’t see any changes at home until disease conditions are quite advanced. That’s where the veterinarian comes in: I have lots of questions that need to be reviewed on a routine basis. I will be asking you about his water consumption, appetite, stool quality, and any changes in his habits, among other items of interest. I will also be checking his mouth, belly, ear canals, and various internal lymph nodes. I will be using a stethoscope on his heart and lungs, all with the goal of disclosing hidden conditions before the damage gets too severe. True, his appointments as a youngster are somewhat less likely to uncover concealed health problems. I’ll use those visits to help the two of you stay on track with regard to his weight and teeth care; these things are much easier to maintain than to repair. I can show you how to trim his nails and give him a pill. We’ll work together during those early encounters to get him habituated to the clinic environment. Ideally, we’ll get any rough edges polished off before his golden years, when he’ll likely be visiting the doctor a couple of times a year. Felines age at a greatly accelerated rate compared to humans, and sadly those “youngster visits” will be gone before you know it.

Some cats take a doctor visit in stride, but others are, well, a bit taken aback by an expedition out of the house. I’ve heard a lot of obscene language spewing from latched cat carriers. I’ve been scratched a few times and had one or two attempts on my life. It’s fine. Seeing the doctor is a break in routine that most pets would rather do without, and all of that is normal behavior for a frightened cat. He will get over it, so don’t allow him to sabotage his own health. What would you think of a parent who sidestepped pediatrician visits because their toddler refused to go? Let him rant and rave, let him slander my good name, even plot out my grisly demise. Just make sure he appears at the office for his regular visits. I care much more about his health than I do about his opinion of me, and I sincerely hope that you can say the same.

Dr M.S. Regan