Are you asking yourself, when should I take my kitten to the vet? Or do indoor cats need to go to the vet? The answer is, yes, all cats need to see a vet. And the answer to when and how often do cats need to go the vet, really depends on their age and where they live. But let me repeat that-ALL cats need to see a vet. Sadly, only a small fraction of cats receive annual veterinary care, and most only see a vet when they are very ill.
When Does My Cat Need to Go to the Vet?
How Often Do Kittens Need to Go To The Vet?: A kitten first vet visit should start around six to eight weeks of age to start their kitten vaccination series. Vaccines will occur every three to four weeks until the kitten is around 18 to 20 weeks. These vaccine visits are important not only for building immunity, but also making sure the kitten is growing properly and identifying any congenital issues early and addressing those issues while the kitten is still young. Once finished with the initial vaccine series, if the kitten is not a potential breeding cat, the kitten will most likely need a vet visit where they will be spayed or neutered. This kitten will likely not see a veterinarian again until about a year in order to give them their yearly vaccinations.
Adult Cat Vet Visit: Most cats are considered adults from two to six years of age. Adult cats should be examined by a veterinarian at least once every year, whether or not they are receiving vaccines. The reason for this is that cats tend to hide the fact that they are sick and so an owner might not realize their feline friend is having any issues until those issues are very serious. The cat annual check up exam can identify potential problems and make changes early enough to prevent severe illness.
Mature Cat Vet Visit: A cat is considered mature between seven and 10 years of age. Cats of mature age need to see the vet at least once a year, but might start showing more aging changes and may require more frequent visits to the vet in order to address those changes early before they become very serious illnesses. It’s at this stage that having at least yearly bloodwork performed to establish a baseline and discover any early disease (such as kidney disease, feline arthritis, etc.) will allow for early intervention to slow progression.
How Often Should a Senior Cat Go To The Vet?: Senior cats are considered between 11 to 15 years of age, and geriatric cats are older than 15 years. These are life stages that require more than yearly visits to the vet for the simple fact that most illnesses occur during these life stages, but early detection and monitoring can sometimes slow progression or minimize symptoms. These experienced felines should see a vet at least twice a year, and maybe more often depending on what issues or changes are occurring.
How Often Should Indoor Cats Go to The Vet?: Most cat owners that keep their cats indoors all the time feel that they don’t need to have their cat see the vet for the simple fact that they “aren’t exposed to anything bad” and their indoor cat is “really healthy and doesn’t act sick” . While it’s great that their cat might be healthy, it’s still important that indoor cats be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, and possibly more depending on the age of the cat. As was stated before, cats like to hide illness and an owner might not recognize potential health issues in their indoor cat. Indoor/outdoor or outdoor exclusive cats have even more risk as they have more exposure to potential dangers of illness and injury. They also have more contact with parasites, both internal and external, that may require more frequent vet visits in order for them to remain healthy.
Breeding Cats: Cat vet visits for felines that are used for breeding are somewhat of a special case when it comes to veterinary care. It’s true that they should receive at least annual veterinary care, but depending on the breed, and whether they are a male or female, they may require more frequent veterinary care. Breeding soundness exams including pre-breeding bloodwork or cultures are a good idea to make sure a cat is healthy enough for breeding. Genetic testing and specialized exams (echocardiogram screening for breeds pre-disposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or other ultrasound studies) may be required to make sure the queen or sire is healthy enough to breed may be necessary. A healthy queen and sire are the foundation to having healthy kittens to continue good breeding lines.
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Written by: Amy Hanson, DVM
Amy Hanson, DVM
Dr. Amy Hanson is an associate veterinarian at the Cat Clinic of Lawrence in Lawrence, Kansas. She is a 2010 graduate of Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her special interests include felines, acupuncture and dentistry. Her hobbies include showing cats and she is a judge for the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA).