More Than You Think

How Often Should You Take Your Cat To The Vet? Um, You’re Probably Overdue

Break out the calendar — it’s time to put some appointments on the books.

How often you take your cat to the vet can depend on many factors, but veterinarians recommend at le...
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I have had many cats in my life, five to be exact, and I have to be honest: Because they were indoor cats, I didn't think it was necessary to take them to the vet unless they needed a vaccine or were showing any signs of illness. After all, cats are pretty resilient, right? Well, yes, but even the coolest cat needs to be checked out by a veterinarian. Which begs the question — how often do you take a cat to the vet?

To get to the bottom of this mystery, Scary Mommy tapped two veterinarians to share their expertise. Interestingly, we found that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how often your cat should visit the veterinarian. However, there are factors to consider, such as lifestyle, age, and weight — and most veterinarians do recommend taking the family feline in for checkups on a somewhat regular schedule.

So, break out your calendar and prepare to plan Miss Kitty's next year of veterinary health. Here's what you should know.

How often should you take your cat to the vet?

According to Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, recommendations vary, but generally, "You should take your adult cat for a preventive checkup at least twice a year, preferably once every six months."

She says these visits are "about identifying and preventing diseases before they scale up to a major problem, so even if your cat is living a healthy lifestyle and seems perfectly fine, you should still go for these routine checkups every six months since it's always better to be safe than sorry."

Dr. Melissa M. Brock, a board-certified veterinarian, says the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends annual visits for cats older than 7 years old. Many veterinarians will recommend that younger cats get yearly checkups, too. "In addition to keeping an eye on your cat's overall health, these visits can also be used to make sure that the cat is up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative care."

When should kittens go to the vet?

You just adopted a sweet kitten (and successfully pried yourself away from not adopting the entire litter). Typically, new kitten owners are bound to visit the veterinarian after adoption for a checkup and a round of vaccines. The first round of vaccines — including shots for rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia — occurs around the six- to eight-week mark. This is followed by more of the same vaccines four weeks later, recurring for another three to four weeks until the kitten is 4 months old. Rabies shots follow around the three-month mark, and kittens are usually spayed or neutered around or before 6 months old.

When should older cats go to the vet?

Adult cats (6 to 8 years old) should visit the vet once a year for preventative care. But if your cat has been acting differently lately — such as not eating or drinking — Dr. Brock says you might want to take them in sooner than later. "If you notice any changes in behavior or appearance (like a change in their litter box habits), it could be a sign of illness or injury that needs immediate attention from a veterinarian."

If you own an elderly cat, Dr. Kong says you may want to pay more regular visits to the vet, meaning you take your furry friend for checkups at least three or four times a year. Of course, if you notice any behavior change, the above advice applies to your senior cat.

What if your cat hates going to the vet?

Hopefully, your cat will become less anxious when visiting the veterinarian through these regular visits. However, if your feline turns into a scaredy cat whenever their carrier comes out, Dr. Kong says her number one tip for getting an anxious cat to the vet is getting them used to the carrier.

"A common characteristic among anxious cats is going absolutely crazy with just the sight of the carrier, mainly because they immediately associate it with a fearful experience where they're obliged to get into that tiny space and taken to an unknown place," she says. "Therefore, in order to make the process easier for you and less stressful for your furry friend, you need to let your cat know that the carrier is not a synonym for horror."

She suggests leaving the carrier out for several days before the vet visit or even keeping it out permanently so that your cat sees it every day and loses its fear of it. "Put some toys, treats, and their favorite blanket inside of it, so your cat feels more comfortable venturing inside and even sleeping on it; once you get them to feel this way about the carrier, taking your cat to the vet will become a much easier task."