While an indoor cat can easily live to about 20 years of age with proper care and the safety of the indoor environment, we must remember that our pets still age faster than we do. This means your cat is already in "middle age" by the age of 4, and is considered a "senior" by 7. Because their time line runs faster than ours, it doesn't take as long for some diseases or conditions to develop, such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
A wellness exam by your veterinarian at an early age helps to establish a "wellness profile" which provides a baseline to measure against for the rest of your pet's life. A typical exam should consist of a consultation first, so you can report facts about your cat's behavior and habits, since you are the most reliable source of this information. You likely spend every day with your pet, so you will be the first to notice any changes in these routines.
The next phase of an exam will be physical, as the vet tests the major systems, such as circulatory, respiratory, muscular, elimination, dental, skin and fur, ears, etc. This should be followed by laboratory tests to be sure there are no hidden problems internally, including blood, urine and stool samples. These can be used to rule out parasites and certain infectious conditions.
A good vet will then counsel you about appropriate preventive care, which should include information about vaccination, nutrition, dental care, and general health care guidelines specific to cats. Unless you are into professional breeding (as opposed to accidental, or "backyard breeding"), it's extremely important to spay and neuter, as this will also help to prevent certain forms of cancer in your cat.
If you want your pets to be with you as long as possible, follow these guidelines to help maintain their health and well being.
Dr. R.J. Peters has an extensive background in health care, animal care, journalism, computer repair and systems administration. Visit http://www.theproblemcat.com for more articles and information about cats.