Cats are known for their independence and their sass, but they are also known for their talents in hiding signs of illness and injury.
Many owners go years without taking their fluffy feline to the veterinarian, usually because they’re indoor-only or time just flies that fast. So, that raises the question of how often are cats supposed to go to the vet?
Don’t beat yourself up if you just realized that it’s been a few years since your cat has had an exam or vaccination. You certainly aren’t the only one! Check out more information below on how often you should take your feline to the vet.
Taking Your Cat to the Vet
While felines are very self-sufficient, it is recommended that your cat, even if they are healthy, see the vet at least once a year.
The second most popular pet in America is the feline, but veterinary clinics see far fewer of them for annual exams and vaccinations. As a matter of fact, dog owners (90%) are more than twice as likely to take their pet to the veterinarian for vaccinations and a check-up than cat owners (<40%).
While a standard number of visits per year is about 1 -2 for a healthy cat, there are 3 factors that can affect how often your feline friend has to see the doctor: age, health condition, and living situation (indoor/outdoor/both).
Kittens (7 weeks to 4 months)
Our cute little furballs should receive three rounds of vaccinations from the ages of 7 or 8 weeks to about 16 weeks (4 months old). These vaccines should be done about 3 – 4 weeks apart.
It is also recommended that your kitten be dewormed 3 or 4 times as well during the vaccination process.
Kitten Vaccination Schedule
If you’ve welcomed a new kitty into your home, here is the vaccination schedule that you and your veterinarian will follow.
- 7-8 weeks: FVRCP and oral deworming
FVRCP is vaccinating against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia
- 11-12 weeks: FVRCP with feline leukemia vaccine and oral deworming
Same vaccination as the month prior, just with leukemia as well
- 16 weeks: FVRCP with feline leukemia, rabies vaccine, and oral deworming
Some veterinarians and shelters/rescues will recommend or already have done a feline leukemia and FIV (feline HIV) test.
Testing for Feline Leukemia and FIV
It is extremely important and highly recommended that your kitten be tested for feline leukemia and feline HIV (FIV) prior to introducing them to any other cats in your household. Leukemia and FIV are highly contagious and life-threatening conditions that you wouldn’t want to spread to your healthy cats.
The time frame with which kittens should be tested for leukemia and FIV can be frustrating as many owners and shelters want them tested right away so they can bring them into a multicat household without having to create separation for months. This is understandable, but the chances for false positives or negatives are very high in kittens younger than 6 months of age.
The best thing to suggest is having them tested as a young kittens before introducing them to other cats and then retesting them again when they are between 6 and 8 months of age to confirm the results.
Spaying and Neutering Kittens
Your kitten can be spayed or neutered anytime between 4 and 6 months of age.
Thankfully, there is far less debate with cat owners about spaying and neutering than there is with dog owners. Usually, because Tomcats (intact males) are notorious for urinating on things and female cats in heat never seem to stop screaming at you for attention.
The time that your cat is under for their spay or neuter is also a great opportunity to microchip them! These awesome little chips save lives and bring lost animals home!
Adult Cats 1-8 Years
Cats in their prime years, usually between the age of 1 and 7, should be young and lively, only needing to see the vet about once a year. These felines are still climbing, running, and playing like they did when they were kittens, and ideally updating vaccinations is all that is required from the vet.
Even as an indoor cat, it is extremely important that your vet is keeping a close eye on your cat’s body weight, dental and oral health, and overall condition.
Your cat’s veterinarian should perform the following preventative care when they come in once a year.
- Physical exam, FVRCP with leukemia, rabies, fecal test for intestinal parasites and suggest a deworming
- If your cat is outdoors or even goes outside occasionally, you should be testing them yearly for feline leukemia (FeLV) and FIV
- Yearly dental cleanings
Senior Cats 9-15 Years +
Cats have a slightly longer lifespan than the average canine, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to old age symptoms and illnesses too. These geriatric kitties may be sleeping more than usual, grooming themselves less, losing weight, and having difficulties jumping onto furniture or high places.
It is recommended that senior cats should be visiting the vet at least twice a year (about every 6 months), assuming that they’re not having any new issues.
Your veterinarian may suggest running bloodwork if your cat is showing signs of hyperthyroidism or decreased organ function. Our feline friends are quite prone to developing a thyroid condition or early kidney failure as they get up in age.
Flea and Tick Prevention in Cats
Fleas and ticks are a nuisance and no one wants to deal with them. Even cats that are indoor only are susceptible to picking up fleas. Many owners have had it happen. These nasty little buggers are professionals at ending up where they shouldn’t, so all they have to do is hitch a ride on the dog (even if they’re on good flea prevention) or you (YUCK) and there you have it, now your cat has fleas!
Cats that spend any time outside are highly recommended to be on flea prevention. Just be cautious as felines are very sensitive to pyrethrin based products and can often cause adverse side effects in cats. Find a good and reputable product and don’t hesitate to ask the vet what they recommend!
Dental Care in Cats
Oral hygiene in all species is extremely important, so we definitely don’t want to skimp on the quality of care that our favorite felines receive. Having yearly dental cleanings performed on your cat can really help to extend the longevity of their teeth and minimize oral health complications and issues in the future.
Kidney and heart disease can arise from neglecting dental care, so staying on top of their oral health is the best thing to do. Extracting teeth later in life can still happen, but preventing a complicated extraction surgery by keeping up on their oral health will save you money and your pet a world of pain and discomfort later down the road.
Indoor vs Outdoor Cats
Most cats live comfortably in the safety of our homes and apartments, but there are still plenty that has the freedom of exploring the outdoors. While cats that get to go outside tend to love it, and frankly demand it, they are at a much higher risk of accident, injury, illness or death.
Indoor AND outdoor cats should still receive yearly check-ups and vaccinations from the vet. Even if Buddy hasn’t had any run-ins with the neighborhood bully or if Bella is happy staying in the backyard, these yearly exams and vaccines are crucial for their overall health as well as catching potential issues before they’re obvious.
Outdoor cats or any feline that goes outside, even for a few minutes here and there, should be tested annually for leukemia and FIV as well as intestinal parasites.
Does a Cat Need Vaccinations If they are Indoor Only?
The answer is YES. Your cat does need vaccinations even if they never leave the house. I know that it seems like vaccinations are silly with cats, especially when they literally never leave your house.
While I agree to some extent, life is full of surprises and you never know when your kitty may escape out the front door. Or perhaps you decide one nice afternoon that Fluffy should get some fresh air for once, who knows, but you should always be prepared for anything.
On another note, the rabies vaccine is legally required in almost every US state except for a few like Ohio, Kansas and Utah. So if your cat gets out and is picked up by Animal Control, then you may receive a fine if they are not up to date.
Keeping Up on Your Kitty’s Health with Annual Vet Visits
Cats are truly an incredible, cute, and heartwarming species, but they are also extremely self-sustaining and independent. However, that doesn’t mean that our feline friends deserve any less veterinary care than the canine companion. So, let’s boost those statistics and get cats back into the vets’ office regularly!