How Often Should I Take My Cat To The Vet?

Here's what a cats-only veterinarian said.

How Often Do You Take A Cat To The Vet?

Cats have a reputation for being low-maintenance pets. But that’s pretty far from the truth since even the easiest of cats requires an attentive pet parent. Caring for a cat is more than just about feeding, sharing snuggles and cleaning out his litter box. Regular trips to the veterinarian for wellness exams are also necessary and super important.

But just how often do you take a cat to the vet, really?

We spoke with Dr. Abigail Hooker, a veterinarian at The Cat Doctor, a cats-only veterinary clinic in Philadelphia, to learn more about what’s involved with cat care when it comes to going to the vet.

Do cats need to see a vet every year?

Yes. For cats in good physical health, it’s recommended they have a physical examination at least once a year.

“However, cats are masters of hiding illness, and a lot can change in a short period of time,” Dr. Hooker told The Dodo. “I recommend more frequent visits, usually every six months, for cats with existing health conditions and cats over the age of 8.”

Even if you don’t have any specific health concerns, regular visits to the vet provide updates on basic health information — like your cat’s weight, for example.

“More than half of pet cats in the United States are overweight, and you may not realize your cat has gained weight without regular wellness exams,” Dr. Hooker said. “If your cat is determined to be overweight, your veterinarian can work with you to design a realistic diet plan.”

Other things commonly discussed at wellness exams include behavioral concerns, occasional inappropriate elimination, and preventive medicine, including vaccinations and parasite prevention.

If you’ve had your cat since he was a kitten, you’ll already have gotten his core and non-core vaccinations. But following up with your veterinarian is necessary, as cats will need booster shots every one to three years.

“Many municipalities legally require your cat to be up to date on their rabies vaccination,” Dr. Hooker added. Other vaccinations integral to your cat’s health include the FVRCP vaccine and FeLV vaccine.

Staying up to date with your cat’s vaccine schedule will keep your cat protected against serious viral diseases and is just another reason that regular visits to the veterinarian are a good idea.

When should you take your cat to the vet?

As mentioned above, cats often try very hard to hide signs of illness.

“If you notice any changes in behavior, such as hiding, urinating or defecating outside the litter box, or increased vocalization, you should contact your veterinarian,” Dr. Hooker said. “It may seem like a small change, but this could be the only sign of illness your cat shows before getting very sick.”

Other signs of illness in cats include increased thirst, frequent urination, changes in appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. These are all warning signs that your cat could be sick. As with humans, early detection and treatment can be critical to your cat’s health.

How often do you need to take a cat to the vet once they're an adult?

A cat’s considered an adult around a year old, or once he’s fully grown, according to Dr. Hooker. While biannual (every six months) examinations are ideal for all cats, at least once a year is recommended.

As we mentioned above, if a cat has existing health problems or is over the age of 8, Dr. Hooker recommends an examination at least every six months, although these recommendations may change depending on the cat's specific circumstances.

Here’s to keeping your cat healthy and living a wonderful life (both at the vet’s office and at home).