Veterinarians shouldn’t only be visited when there is a problem or when your cat is sick. They should be seen at least once a year, depending on the age of your cat. Taking your cat to the vet for regular checkups will ensure that health problems are picked up early on and dental issues are noticed and treated early on in the process. It is also a great way to familiarize your cat with their veterinarian and the clinic so that checkups become less and less stressful.
Regardless of whether your cat spends their days inside or outside, regular vet checkups will be beneficial for them and may help them live longer, healthier lives. If you’re one of the many people who avoid taking their cat to the vet unless there is an emergency, keep reading because this article might surprise you.
How Often Should My Cat Go to the Vet?
If you take your cat to the vet whenever they’re ill, you’re making sure they’re getting the care they need and are being a responsible cat owner—so great job! However, it is also important to take your cat to the vet for wellness checks. How regularly your cat needs to visit the veterinarian will depend on their life stage.
The first year of your kitten’s life will consist of the most trips to the vet and will likely be the only time they go so frequently unless your cat develops a health issue in the future that requires frequent monitoring and vet checks. In the first 4 months of your kitten’s life, they need to receive all of their vaccinations to protect them from life-threatening viruses, including the cat flu viruses, rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Your kitten will also be given parasite prevention medications to protect them from fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms. You will likely have to take them for these vaccinations every month until they are 6 months old.
From around 6 months of age, your young cat will be ready to be spayed or neutered. Neutering both male and female cats is advised to prevent unwanted pregnancies, to reduce roaming, fighting and risk of road traffic accidents, as well as to reduce your cat’s risk of developing cancers (namely mammary, uterine, ovarian or testicular). Although all these veterinarian visits are time-consuming, they are an excellent way to get your kitten used to their veterinarian and clinic while they’re still young, which will result in a more relaxed adult cat.
Adult cats should be seen by their veterinarian once a year. The veterinarian will do a full physical and oral examination on your cat and may run some tests on urine, feces, and blood to look for any problems. During these appointments, your cat will also be given their annual vaccinations and parasite prevention treatment. This is a good opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about your cat’s overall health, diet and behavior.
Cats over the age of 10 years need to be seen by the veterinarian every 6 months because they’re at a higher risk for developing health problems. If your cat already has a health condition, they will need to be seen by the veterinarian more regularly.
What to Expect from a Trip to the Vet
If you have a wellness checkup coming up and don’t know what to expect, here are a few things your veterinarian may do:
Depending on what your veterinarian wants to do, they may ask you to stop feeding your cat the night before the appointment and to collect a urine or fecal sample. If you haven’t been instructed to do anything, you can always call your veterinarian and ask.
The 7 Reasons to Take Your Cat to the Vet Regularly
1. Pick Up on Health Issues Early On
One tricky thing about cats is that they hide any problem they may have, including illness and injury. This makes it very difficult to know when your cat is suffering or when they need to be seen by the veterinarian. By taking your cat to the vet regularly, these hidden symptoms will be uncovered, and health problems can be caught early on before they progress or develop complications that are harder to treat.
Although you pay close attention to your cat’s behavior and any symptoms they may experience, the best person to pick up on a health problem is your veterinarian—and they can do something about it. Early intervention is so important because treatment is much simpler and may only require a lifestyle change. However, if a condition is caught in an advanced stage, management is much more complicated, invasive, and expensive.
2. Stay Up to Date on Vaccinations
Indoor and outdoor cats need to be vaccinated against harmful and potentially life-threatening diseases. Although most vaccines are administered to your cat when they are young, some vaccines need to be readministered yearly, such as the rabies vaccine. Other vaccines need routine booster injections every 1–3 years. When you take your cat to their wellness checkup, your veterinarian will administer all the vaccinations your cat needs to keep them up to date.
There are core vaccines that all kittens and cats should receive, which include the vaccines against feline panleukopenia virus, feline herpes virus, feline calicivirus, rabies virus, and feline leukemia virus. Other non-core vaccines may be recommended for your cat based on their lifestyle and environment. These are optional, but if your veterinarian recommends them, it is for good reason and should be considered.
3. Parasite Prevention
Fleas can spread like wildfire if they’re not attended to, infesting your home and your other pets. Ticks may not be as widespread or leave those red bumps all over your legs, but they can be dangerous to your cat.
When a tick bites an animal or person, it attaches itself to the host with the barbs on its feeding tube. It can feed on the host’s blood for a number of days and while doing so, it can transmit pathogens that it has taken from a previous host and transmit it to the new host. If your cat is bitten by a tick, they are at risk of getting a disease from it.
Therefore, it is important to ask your vet for tick and flea treatment to protect against these common parasites.
4. To Prevent Dental Problems
Dental disease affects most older cats. In fact, between 50-90% of cats over the age of 4 suffer from some form of dental disease. The three most common dental diseases seen in cats are gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth resorption. If a cat’s teeth aren’t brushed often, gingivitis can develop, which causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed. Gingivitis is preventable if you brush your cat’s teeth regularly. It’s also important to take them to their wellness checkups because the veterinarian will examine their mouth, teeth, and gums, and if they spot early signs of gingivitis, they’ll recommend a specialized cleaning.
If gingivitis isn’t dealt with, it can progress into periodontal disease which is the inflammation and weakening of the structures that attach the tooth to the gum and the bone. This is a more serious dental problem that will lead to pain and tooth loss. Treatment for advanced gingivitis and periodontal disease is costly. In this case, gum disease could be avoided entirely with regular visits to the vet and tooth brushing.
Taking your cat to the veterinarian often will help them feel comfortable with the veterinarian and the clinic. It is extremely helpful if your veterinarian is able to examine your cat without the cat becoming stressed out and putting up a fight. It’s so important to start taking your cat to the veterinarian when they are still young so that they get used to it, which will make it easier to take them when they are older.
Taking your cat to the veterinarian regularly won’t only be beneficial to your cat, but it will also help your veterinarian get to know your cat well. The better your veterinarian knows your cat, the better they will be at noticing changes in their behavior and physical appearance. They will also have a detailed history of your cat, which will include any illness or injuries they’ve had, as well as a record of their weight.
6. Weight Management
When you spend each day with your cat, it is hard to notice gradual changes in their appearance, especially their weight. Although all cats are at risk for becoming obese, it is especially common amongst indoor cats because they tend to be less active. Obesity can lead to diabetes, urinary tract problems, heart disease, arthritis, and many other complications, so it’s important to watch your cat’s diet and their weight.
By taking your cat to the vet regularly, you’ll be able to know where your cat is with their weight and whether you need to make nutritional and lifestyle changes. Your vet will provide you with this information as well as advice because they will weigh your cat at each checkup and compare your cat’s weight to the previous measurements.
7. It Ends Up Being More Affordable
The reality is that unless you’re covered under a pet insurance plan that covers the cost of wellness checkups, you’re going to have to pay each year. Many people opt to skip wellness checkups for this reason, but taking your cat to the vet regularly ends up being more affordable in the long run.
When you take your cat to the vet regularly, they’re able to pick up on and treat any health issues early, when treatment is much simpler and more affordable. Health issues that are only diagnosed in their advanced stage tend to be more expensive because treatment needs to be more aggressive and may include surgery, tooth extractions, and even more frequent trips to the vet.
Taking your cat to the vet annually may prevent certain health problems altogether, such as periodontal disease or obesity, which can lead to many serious complications.
Why Do I Need to Take My Indoor Cat to the Vet?
Indoor cats are less likely to sustain injuries serious enough to need veterinary intervention, but all cats are at risk for developing health conditions, especially as they grow older. Your veterinarian needs to see your cat every year to look for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and chronic kidney disease.
Indoor cats should also receive preventative care such as vaccinations, dental cleanings, and parasite prevention treatment. Although they may not climb the trees in your yard or roam the neighborhood, you may want to take them to the groomer, on playdates, and to a boarding facility when you go away on vacation.
All these locations are potential spots for your cat to pick up a virus because other cats have been there before your cat. An unvaccinated cat is at risk of contracting a contagious virus that can put their life at risk.
Taking your cat to the veterinarian regularly will help prolong their life because health problems will be picked up early and treated. It is also important for staying up to date on vaccinations and parasite treatment, preventing dental disease, building familiarity between your cat and the veterinarian, managing your cat’s weight, and keeping overall costs low.
Regular vet visits are necessary not only for outdoor cats but indoor ones, too!
Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock