How often do you take a cat to the vet

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Just like any other pets, cats must also have regular visits to the vet clinic to ensure their health and safety.

As the popular saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is best to bring your cats regularly for preventive care and wellness check-ups even without any signs of illnesses or discomfort. 

Most cats, if not all, are best known for their ability to hide their ailments until the worse comes out. 

That is why, regular check-ups and updating booster shots are important to reduce the risk of your cat getting sick, detect early signs of life-threatening diseases, and delay its progression through conducting early head-on treatment.

So how often do you take a cat to the vet for check-ups?

Well, that depends on the life stage your cat is in. Your cat’s health needs may vary according to their age group.

But regardless of life stages, it is best to have preventive measures such as wellness check-ups that are recommended annually or every six (6) months. Better not to wait for illnesses to occur for you to be able to bring your cat in for a vet visit.

How Often Should Kittens Go to the Vet?

Bringing a kitten (less than a year old) for a vet visit and starting its health programs might be tiresome and tedious to some owners but it will spare you the risk of your pet getting sick.

Your kittens should have their first vet visit when they are 2 weeks old to start their deworming program. Intestinal worms are passed on to the kittens from their mother before parturition and through the ingestion of milk during the lactation period.

It will take more than one dose to eliminate both adult worms and eggs thus, deworming programs are usually given at 4-5 doses with an interval of 2 weeks.

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Core vaccines (Feline Calicivirus, Feline Rhinotracheitis or Herpesvirus 1, Feline Panleukopenia) for cats are usually introduced as early as 6-8 weeks with an interval of 3-4 weeks given at 2 doses, the second dose will be a booster shot given at maximum 16 weeks old.

Cats starting the core vaccination when they are older than 16 weeks are given 2 doses at 3-4 weeks intervals and a booster shot when they are 6 months to one year old.

Rabies vaccination is another core vaccine that should be administered once a year and is given to kittens as early as 3 months old.

During deworming and vaccination visits, vets usually advise pet owners to administer tick and flea preventatives to their cats as protection against external parasite infestations that may cause serious diseases and discomfort.

How Often Should Adult Cats Go to the Vet?

Cats between one year and six years old are considered young adults while cats between the age of 7 and 10 years old are mature adults.

In this life stage, veterinarians recommend cat owners have their pets checked at least once a year. A thorough physical examination from head to tail will be conducted and a blood sample will be obtained for a complete blood count and serum chemistry.

cat taking a vaccine
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If anything unusual is observed during examination and laboratory diagnostics, the vet may require further tests and repeated check-ups in a few months for close monitoring and treatment.

As for booster shots, it is best to update them annually to boost their protection from various diseases and to keep them immune in line with their vaccines that were given at an early age since the antibodies formed will eventually wear off.

How Often Should Senior Cats Go to the Vet?

For this life stage, senior cats (11 years old and above) are required to have general check-ups at least every 6 months, given that the pet is in good condition and has no existing health problems.

Also, booster vaccine shots and deworming doses must be updated for protection. A more comprehensive physical examination will be conducted by the veterinarian, including laboratory diagnostics such as complete blood count, urine test, serum chemistry, hormonal test, radiography, and even ultrasonography.

This life stage may require some cat owners more frequent visits if their pet has life-threatening conditions that need to be closely monitored.

How Often Should Sick Cats or Cats with Diseases Go to the Vet?

This may vary depending on the diagnosis or kind of disease the cat has. Cats having mild conditions may be required to have monthly to quarterly check-ups depending on their response to medications and the owner’s management.

sick cat
Image credit: Mukesh Jain from Unsplash

Severely sick cats may visit the vet as often as once a week, bi-monthly, or even monthly. Cases such as kidney failure will keep the owners from coming in and out of the vet clinic or hospital. 

Vet Cat Check-up Checklist

During a physical cat check-up, the patient must be properly restrained for the vet to conduct a thorough examination, especially, for feisty and aggressive cats. When cats are properly restrained the vet will then look through the following:

  • Ask the owner for any complaints 
  • Obtain rectal temperature
  • Check hydration status and mucous membranes such as CRT (Capillary Refill Time)
  • Conduct physical check-ups on the eyes, ears, mouth, neck, chest, abdomen, limbs, anus, and tail (during this procedure vitals may be obtained)
  • Look for external parasites, skin and fur lesions, and discharges
  • Ask for changes in behavior, diet, litterbox habits, stool formation, and frequency, and lifestyle
  • If the vet has formulated a differential diagnosis, appropriate laboratory test follows 
  • Depending on the results, the vet decides if the patient should be admitted or treated as out-patient
  • Schedule a follow-up check-up

Signs You Should Take Your Cat to the Vet – Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

Unusual changes in the behavior of your cat often lead to unexpected vet visits. The following are signs that your cat might be sick:

cat hiding
Image credit: Biel Morro from Unsplash
  1. Abnormal litter box behavior – This alarming change in behavior may indicate urinary tract infections or obstructions, especially for male cats. The obstruction prevents the passage of urine to the urethra causing the cat to strain during urination and often times cry out in pain. If little to no urine is produced, this will lead to possible infections.
  1. Frequent vomiting and diarrhea – Various diseases and conditions in cats may cause vomiting and diarrhea as primary signs. Most of which include viral and bacterial infections, foreign body obstruction, and so on. Excessive vomiting and diarrhea lead to severe dehydration which worsens the body’s condition leading to death. 
  1. Sudden appetite change – Various infections in your cat’s body cause physiological changes such as fever leading to loss of appetite. Hormonal imbalances during the heat cycle may also cause sudden appetite changes.
  2. Unusual stance and gait – Limping or trouble standing and walking properly pays your cat a visit to the vet. This may be associated with bone or nerve infections, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or even drug-related conditions. 
  3. Infestations – Common infestations in cats are ear mites, fleas, and worms. This condition needs a veterinarian’s attention for treatment and prevention as this may cause serious issues.
  4. Wounds due to physical trauma (surgical and non-surgical) – Cat fights are very common incidents in cats often leading to wounds caused by scratches and bites. Some wounds may require immediate medical attention as they may require surgical procedures or simply a plain wound dressing. 
  5. Respiratory distress – Signs of coughing, heavy or labored breathing, and wheezing require a visit to the vet clinic for a thorough examination.
  6. Unusual growth – Lumps or masses (tumors) may grow in different parts of your cat’s body which may cause discomfort if left unexamined or untreated.
  7. Excessive or abnormal discharges – This is usually the result of an underlying infection. This may occur in the eyes, ears, nasal, oral mucosa, and even on the genitals.
  8. Abrupt weight gain and loss – Certain diseases may cause sudden weight loss and gain. These conditions need immediate attention to avoid further damage to your cat’s health and well-being.

How Often Do Cats Need Shots?

Kittens as early as 6-8 weeks old require 2 shots of the core vaccines at 3-4 weeks apart. Rabies vaccination is given only once a year as early as 3 months old.

While young to mature to senior adult cats require one annual booster shot of each vaccine given during the kitten stage to boost their protection against various diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should an Indoor Cat Go to the Vet?

Indoor cats may visit the vet at least twice a year. They may not be that susceptible to other cats carrying viral and bacterial infections, but they are not exempted from developing other diseases such as urinary tract obstructions or chronic kidney disease.

How Much is a Vet Check-Up for a Cat?

A wellness or routine check-up for cats may cost between $90 to $200, having an average amount of $150 per check-up. That is a regular check-up without further laboratory diagnostics involved. 

How do I Prepare My Cat for a Vet Visit?

Vet visits vary depending on the purpose such as check-ups or vaccination. But it is best to prepare your cat by placing it in a carrier, bringing your cat’s favorite food and water, and clothing or toy that could reduce their stress and anxiety. 

How Long Does a Cat Checkup Take?

It depends on what is the complaint during the examination. Complicated cases can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour including laboratory tests.

While regular physical check-ups take up less time to perform, usually no more than 15 minutes.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Being Checked On?

It’s a difficult question to answer. Some cats can live for a long time without any vet visits and they seem to appear healthy and unbothered.

Stray cats, for example, survive the environment without being checked but then, not all cats are made with the same immune system, some may not last a month or a year without being checked.

To Conclude

Never wait for a sign of illness in your cat before you bring them in for vet visits. Cats often mask their illnesses and are often mistaken as healthy.

Through regular check-ups, your vet can observe and track possible changes that might lead to early detection of diseases.

Prevention will always be better and will cost you less than unexpected treatment. Booster shots are just as important to maintain strong immune protection.

Owning a cat or any other pet is a big responsibility. It is not only about providing food and shelter but also keeping them healthy through regular check-ups.

Written By
Dr. Christine Awing DVM_Profile-Photo (Custom)
Dr. Christine Awing (DVM)

Christine is a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine. As the in-house vet and writer for Furs'n'Paws, Christine shares her extensive knowledge and expertise on all things pet-related, with a particular focus on small animals such as dogs and cats. In addition, she runs her own clinic in the Philippines and volunteers at a local organization to help stray pets. Her commitment to animal health is evident in her writing style, which makes her an invaluable resource for pet owners and animal lovers.

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