Updated - Jan 30th, 2023
- Every cat, regardless of age, should get a checkup at least once a year.
- Kittens should be at the vet every few weeks during the first 6 months of their life to keep up with vaccines, parasite prevention, and more.
- Senior cats or adult cats with health issues should see their vet at least twice a year.
Taking your cat to the vet is an essential part of preventive care. It helps you give your feline friend a greater chance at a longer and better life – and who doesn’t want that?
However, you might be surprised to learn that according to a 2020 research study, only 40% of cat owners reported visiting a veterinarian at any time, versus 90% of dog owners.
Although cats may have more independent and self-sufficient personalities compared to their canine counterparts, they need regular trips to the vet as well – which may have you wondering: how often should you take your cat to the vet?
The American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) general guidelines recommend that all pets – cats and dogs – should have a wellness check-up at least once yearly. However, the number of times your cat needs to visit the vet can vary based on age, environment, lifestyle, and pre-existing health conditions, among other factors.
How often do you have to take a kitten to the vet?
You’ll likely bring your kitten to the vet more during their first year of life than any other time for a few reasons:
- To check on your kitten’s growth and overall health
- To ensure they stick to their recommended vaccination schedule
- To recommend and/or discuss additional preventive medicine for kittens, such as deworming for intestinal parasites, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick prevention
- To spay or neuter your cat (if you choose to do so)
During your first few wellness visits, your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination and administer any necessary vaccines or tests. These visits are an excellent time to ask your veterinarian questions about the best cat food, socialization, litter box training, environmental enrichment, and any other concerns.
Tip: Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best time for spaying or neutering, but the procedure is generally performed at five to six months old.
Kitten vaccine timeline
The AAHA and AAFP recommend several core vaccines for young kittens, and the regimen generally starts when kittens are six to eight weeks old. Kittens begin with vaccines for feline calicivirus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, and feline panleukopenia. These are often given in a combination vaccine called the FVRCP vaccine, which protects kittens from all three viruses.
You’ll need to bring your kitten to the vet’s office every three or four weeks to receive an FVRCP vaccine booster until they’re about 12 to 16 weeks old.
Another vaccine considered core for kittens and cats under one year of age is for feline leukemia virus. During your kitten’s visit, around 12 weeks, your vet will likely recommend a blood test to screen for feline leukemia. Feline leukemia vaccine boosters (two of them, 3-4 weeks apart) are recommended for kittens that test negative for feline leukemia.
Finally, when your kitten is around 16 weeks, or about four months old, they’ll receive one rabies vaccine booster.
Tip: Depending on your cat’s health risks, lifestyle (i.e., indoor cats vs. outdoor cats), location, and exposure to other cats, your vet may also recommend non-core vaccines, such as those that protect against chlamydia or bordetella. However, these vaccines are only recommended in particular circumstances.
How often should you take adult cats for a checkup?
Adult cats (one to seven years old) should have annual checkups – though some veterinarians may recommend wellness check-ups every six months for some cats.
If you have a healthy adult cat with no existing medical conditions, annual check-ups should be sufficient throughout your cat’s adult years. However, if your cat has health issues, you may need to visit the vet’s office more frequently than once or twice a year for necessary testing or treatment.
During your adult cat’s annual check-up, your veterinarian typically will:
- Perform a head-to-tail physical examination
- Weigh your cat and evaluate their body condition
- Look at your cat’s teeth – and, if necessary, provide tips for dental care.
- Run routine bloodwork to check your cat’s internal organ functions
- Administer any necessary vaccine boosters
Tip: If your cat is overweight, your vet will likely make dietary and exercise recommendations to help with weight loss, as obesity increases your cat’s risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
How often should I take my senior cat to the vet?
Once your cat reaches seniorhood, 8 to 10 years old (and older), they’ll be more prone to health problems, so as your cat ages, it’s a good idea to have vet visits at least twice per year.
During your senior cat’s annual check-up, your veterinarian typically will:
- Perform a head-to-tail physical exam
- Look for bumps, lumps, joint stiffness, limping, weight and muscle composition changes, and similar physical ailments common in older cats
- Run bloodwork and a urinalysis to check your cat’s thyroid, kidney, and liver function and test for diabetes.
- During these visits, your cat may receive vaccine boosters if needed
Tip: Dental disease is common in senior cats. If your cat has dental disease, your veterinarian may recommend a professional dental cleaning, especially if your cat needs teeth removed or is having trouble eating.
When to take your cat to the vet immediately
Hopefully, you’ll only have to take your cat to the vet for regular check-ups, but emergencies do happen, so knowing what to look for can help you seek veterinary care when it’s needed.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), here are some examples of pet health emergencies that require immediate care:
- If your cat experiences severe bleeding is coughing up blood or has blood in their urine.
- If your cat is choking or has difficulty breathing.
- If your cat can’t pass stool or urinate.
- If your cat experiences an injury to their eye, or the eye is red, swollen, closed, or seems cloudy suddenly.
- If your cat can’t move their legs or seems to have broken a bone.
- You notice a firm, hot swelling that may or may not be draining (abscess).
- If you know or think your cat has eaten something poisonous (Lilies, chocolate, onions, garlic, etc.)
- If your cat seems like they’re in extreme pain.
- If your cat is experiencing heat stress or heat stroke.
- If your cat has diarrhea or extreme vomiting.
- If your cat refuses to eat or drink for 24 hours or more.
- If your cat is unconscious, staggering, or has seizures.
At the end of the day, if you think something is unusual or cause for concern, you should at a minimum, call your veterinarian for medical advice.
Planning for your cat’s healthy future
As pet parents or owners, we all want our cats to be happy and healthy – and that’s what preventative care is all about.
For the span of your cat’s life (or all nine of them), you’ll be visiting the vet’s office once or twice per year, so finding and choosing a veterinary professional that you like and trust can help make the journey from kittenhood to seniorhood even easier.
If you run into a surprise vet visit, pet insurance can help you pay for unexpected vet bills. From medications to surgeries, Pumpkin’s Pet Insurance plans can help you pay for the best care pawsible!