How often should a cat go to the veterinarian?
Cats may be independent, but they still need visits to the veterinarian to stay healthy
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 (colostrum), they are temporarily immune from infectious diseases. Since that immunity doesn’t remain strong, it’s advisable to get a kitten vaccinated for rhinotracheitis, calici, and panleukopenia viruses, and rabies starting no earlier than 6 weeks of age and then receive a booster every three to four weeks until 16-20 weeks of age.1
Rabies vaccines are usually administered at 12 weeks of age. Vaccination against rabies is essential in regions where it is required by statute/law or where the virus is endemic and should be administered according to label recommendations.
Many veterinarians also consider the vaccine to protect against feline leukemia virus a core vaccine for kittens and young adult cats less than 1 year of age. This vaccine can be given as early as 8 weeks of age. Initially, your kitten can be administered 2 doses 3-4 weeks apart. Be sure to consult your veterinarian on recommended vaccinations and timing.1
Also, the initial visit is an ideal opportunity to discuss when to spay or neuter and microchip, which commonly occur around six months of age.
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 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 eating or drinking more or less than usual, 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. You can also bring the carrier out a week or so in advance of the annual exam so that your cat doesn’t immediately associate the appearance of the carrier with a trip to the veterinarian.
- 2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines. AAHA, https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/2020-aahaaafp-feline-vaccination-guidelines/feline-vaccination-home/
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