How often should my cat visit a veterinarian?
Ask yourself: When was the last time your cat saw a veterinarian? Cats seem so independent, it sometimes feels as though our little feline friends hardly need our assistance. In fact, while there are more cats than dogs in U.S. homes, dogs receive more regular veterinary care. When it comes to cats, pet parents often wait until they see signs that their cat is feeling under the weather before scheduling a trip to the vet. But cats are expert at hiding signs that they’re not feeling well, so this strategy can result in a missed opportunity to catch an illness in its early stages.
Even though cats appear self-sufficient, they rely on us to make the best decisions on their behalf. A common belief is that strictly indoor cats don’t really need to visit the vet. Certainly, indoor cats don’t have the same exposure to other cats, parasites, and possible injury that cats who are allowed to roam freely outdoors face on a daily basis. However, indoor cats aren’t immune to illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, dental problems, arthritis and hyperthyroidism, to name just a few. Even indoor-only cats can get fleas and heartworm disease! The bottom line is that every cat needs regular veterinary care.
When should I bring my cat to the veterinarian?
The optimal frequency for routine veterinary exams will depend upon your cat’s age, life stage and health status. A healthy adult cat should be seen, at a minimum, once per year for a routine wellness exam. Senior cats should be seen every 6 months in order to catch any developing health problems early. If you already have cats at home and plan to adopt a new kitten, ideally the new kitten should have a veterinary exam before you bring the kitten home where your existing cats may be exposed to any illness or parasite the new kitten is carrying. If that’s not possible, make sure your new kitten has a veterinary visit by 6-8 weeks of age for a complete checkup, vaccinations, and deworming. Your veterinarian will schedule follow up visits for booster shots at around 12 and 16 weeks of age. You should also plan on scheduling a visit to have your kitten spayed or neutered when the kitten is old enough.
Regardless of your cat’s age, if your cat exhibits signs of illness or behavioral changes, a trip to the vet is in order. For example, if you notice an increase in trips to the water bowl and/or urination at the litter box, along with weight loss, a veterinary evaluation should be done as soon as possible to detect what I call the “drinking pathologies” of cats e.g. diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney/liver disease, etc; keep in mind that most cats on a species-appropriate wet food based diet drink little water. If your cat is withdrawing its head away from being petted, or you are noticing an odor or drooling from the mouth, as well as any sort of difficulty in eating, then your pet should be evaluated for possible dental disease, which is present in over 80% of adult cats. Undiagnosed, untreated, dental disease and gingivitis can lead to other problems of the heart, liver or kidneys.
If you’re taking your cat to the vet for the first time
Your vet will be an important partner throughout your cat’s life, so take time to choose the right veterinarian by doing some online research and/or asking friends or family for referrals. Many vet clinics will let you visit and look around the facility in advance of your first appointment. Before you bring your cat to the vet for the first time, copy any of your cat’s previous medical or vaccination records to bring with you. Write down a list of any questions or concerns you may have, and bring something to write with during the appointment. Be prepared to answer your vet’s questions about your pet’s diet, behavior, litter box habits, and any medications your cat is taking. If possible, bring a fresh fecal sample from your cat so your vet can check for intestinal parasites. Before you leave the clinic, make sure you understand when your vet would like to next see your cat.
Tips to reduce your cat’s anxiety or stress during a vet visit
The trip to the vet can be stressful for many cats, and just getting your cat into the carrier can be a challenge in itself! The cat’s aversion to travel is one of the reasons many pet parents put off that important veterinary visit. Luckily there are steps you can take to make the veterinary visit less stressful for you and your cat:
- Choose a cat-friendly carrier that can be opened from the top or the side, and let your cat become accustomed to the carrier in a non-stressful way. Keep the carrier out so your cat can go in and out of the carrier at will. A cozy blanket and a few toys and treats inside will make the carrier even more inviting.
- Look for a clinic specializing in cats or one with a separate waiting area for cats so your cat won’t have to sit next to a pack of barking, drooling dogs in the waiting room.
- Try to book your appointment for first thing in the morning or during off-hours when the clinic is quieter and waiting times will likely be shorter.
- If your cat is very stressed, try using a natural calming aid for cats such as a pheromone spray, calming collar, or flower essence drops designed to help your cat cope with stress.
- As a last resort for cats that just can’t tolerate a trip to the vet, look for a vet who makes home visits.
Check up list for cats
If you’ve never had a new kitten before, you can make the transition to cat ownership a breeze by gathering all the essential kitten supplies your new kitten will need before you bring him or her home. When it comes to adult cats, besides the basic cat supplies such as cat food, water and a litter box, there are several supplies which will help keep your cat in optimal health:
- Regular grooming helps you form an even stronger bond with your cat, improves your cat’s skin and coat, and can help you detect lumps or bumps early. A brush like the FURminator deShedding tool is designed to remove the dead fur that can lead to hairballs, and reduces shedding by up to 90%.
- If your cat has kidney problems, a history of urinary tract infections, or you just want to be proactive when it comes to your cat’s health, consider keeping a CheckUp at Home Wellness Test for Cats on hand. This kit allows you to test for some of the most common cat health problems at home, allowing you to seek prompt veterinary treatment when needed.
- One of the most common reasons pet parents surrender their cats is because of litter box issues. If your cat exhibits a change in litter box behavior, your first step is a trip to the vet to rule out an underlying medical issue. A specialized litter like Cat Attract Cat Litter contains herbal “attractants” that encourage your cat to back to using the litter box.
The extra time and effort you spend now to make sure your cat receives regular veterinary care can ensure that your beloved feline lives the longest, healthiest life possible.