Cats are one of the most popular pets in the world today and yet only 40 percent of cats have been seen at their veterinary practice within the year says a report by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. This is significantly lower than that of dogs.

While several initiatives encouraging exams for felines exist, many practices lack the simple standards of care that make the client want to bring their cat to the veterinary practice for preventive care. While that may be the case, these are some of the basic checks that your feline companion should preferably undergo:

•  Health Check

If your new cat is vaccinated when you first got him, do remember to get the relevant vaccination certificates from the place where you bought or adopted him from.

Further to that, it is still advisable to bring him to your nearest vet clinic for a general health check-up just to make sure everything is fine with your new cat. Your vet can also help you file the vaccination records of your cat at the clinic's database so that your cat's medical history can be documented at the clinic.

If your cat is adopted from the streets and you do not know his age, the vet can probably gauge the approximate age of your cat from his dental features and other physical developments.

•  Sterilisations

If you wish to sterilise your kitten, it is advisable to do it after he is six weeks old.

Sterilisation is a surgical procedure, although not a major one. Your cat will be put under general anaesthesia for the procedure and your cat has to refrain from food and water the night before the procedure. Cats are usually discharged on the same day if everything goes well.

Sterilisation is one of the main things a responsible pet owner should do. Although cats are supposed to stay indoors at all times, you will never know when they can slip outdoors. And if your cat does slip outdoors and he/she is unsterilised, you may be contributing to the problem of Singapore's stray cat population.

A sterilised cat will also have a much lower tendency to roam, to spray and to caterwaul. Also, the chances of contracting ovarian and uterus, or testicular cancers will be eliminated. Sterilisation does not alter a cat's gender or general behaviour as there are hardly any gender-specific personality differences between male and female cats in the first place, unlike humans.

•  Vaccinations

Vaccinating your new cat is a good idea if he is not vaccinated in the first place, but do take note of which vaccines your vet is giving him.

Most vets in Singapore give a multi-valent kind of vaccine, which comprises of vaccines against multiple diseases in one single shot. After the initial shot, annual boosters are supposed to be given, although for some vaccines, a three-year booster interval is recommended.

Vaccinations introduce modified or dead forms of the disease-causing organisms so that your cat's immune system can mount an immune response, "remembering" these organisms and if the real organisms are encountered in future, the immune system can be better prepared to fight them off.

Booster shots are sort of like "refresher courses" to your cat's immune system as the "memory" of fighting off these organisms tend to fade away as time passes, although immunity to certain diseases remain above the acceptable levels for many years. It also varies with each cat's immune system.

There have been some debate in the veterinary field regarding the usefulness of certain vaccines versus the risks of vaccination. But there is no need to worry as only a couple of vaccines are suspected to be causing such sarcomas (eg. Rabies & FeLV vaccines), furthermore, the incidence rate is approximatety 1 in 1,000, which is low risk compared to contracting these diseases that are deadly and easily transmissible.

Other risks of vaccines are mainly mild adverse reactions such as mild fever, diminished appetite, discomfort at the vaccination site, or more serious, an allergic reaction.

In general, core vaccines (Feline Panleukopenia Virus, Feline Calicivirus, Feline Herpes Virus) are recommended for all cats because the advantages of vaccine protection far outweigh the low vaccination risks.

If your cat is an entirely indoor cat, which is a good thing, it will even be far less likely that your cat will be exposed to feline infectious diseases, which are more rampant in the stray cat population. If your cat is old or has an underlying illness, talk to your vet and discuss the risks involved before choosing to vaccinate or giving your cat booster shots.

The information given in this section is for the general knowledge of cat owners and is not meant to substitute advice from a qualified veterinarian. The reader is advised to find out more information by research and consulting a veterinarian. Always consult a veterinarian if in doubt.

* This article was updated on 7 July 2020. It first appeared in Pets Magazine, 19 May 2017.