Basic Pet Care
How Often Should a Cat Go to the Veterinarian?
Cats are such independent creatures that many people assume that as long as they are regularly fed, they are maintenance-free. That may explain why dogs are twice as likely to be brought to a veterinarian as cats.
Yet at different ages and different stages, cats do need veterinary care — and it can often prolong and even save the life of a beloved pet.
Giving a Kitten a Good Start
Thanks to antibodies that newborn kittens receive from their mother's milk, they are temporarily immune from infectious diseases. Since that immunity doesn't remain strong, it's advisable to get a kitten vaccinated for distemper, upper respiratory disease, pneumonitis and rabies starting at six to eight weeks and then repeated at three or four-week intervals until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age. Rabies vaccines are usually administered at 12 weeks of age. Many veterinarians also recommend that those at risk of exposure to feline leukemia virus begin initial inoculations at 9 weeks of age or older. Initially, your kitten can be administered 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart. Be sure to consult your veterinarian on what vaccinations are recommended.
Also, the initial visit is an ideal opportunity to discuss when to spay or neuter and microchip.
A Cat's Annual Check-up
Cats often mask signs of illness and even indoor cats need a regular wellness exam to stay healthy. By examining your cat once or twice yearly from nose to tail, your veterinarian can observe changes that could indicate disease. When problems are detected, early diagnosis and treatment are keys to preserving a cat's longevity.
Vaccines can bolster your cat's immune system and help to combat feline infectious disease. The American Association of Feline Practitioners identifies vital core and optional non-core vaccines. The latter are recommended for outdoor cats and those who spend time in contact with other cats.
Senior Cats Deserve Special Care
Once a cat reaches the age of seven, she is considered a senior according to the American Animal Hospital Association. A twice-yearly check-up can ensure she remains in the best possible condition.
Subtle changes in behavior — such as mental confusion, stiffness when she walks or hiding in unusual places — can signify an age-related problem.
Signs that Indicate Trouble
Regardless of age, any time your pet shows a sign of illness, such as those listed below, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Coughing, sneezing, runny nose
- Greater or diminished eating, drinking, urination, defecation
- Frequent vomiting
- Excessive licking
- Increase or decrease in activity, grooming, sleeping
- Bald spots
- Weight loss
- Avoiding the litter box
TIP: Train your cat to look forward to a visit to the veterinarian by making their carrier a place to play with a toy or receive a treat.