How Often Should Cats Go to the Vet: Timelines & Tips for Taking your Cat to the Vet

Medical articles
Cat at the vet's office being held by the vet

Cats, those enigmatic creatures with their mesmerizing eyes and captivating personalities, often leave us scratching our heads, wondering what goes on behind those furry facades. Their stoic nature, often masking subtle signs of illness, can make keeping tabs on their health a challenge. How often do you take a cat to the vet anyway? Don't worry, fellow cat enthusiasts, for this comprehensive guide will unravel the mysteries of feline health, allowing you to better understand how often your cat needs to go to the vet and what to expect. 

How Often Do You Take a Cat to the Vet? 

A patient's age heavily influences the frequency of veterinary visits for our kitties. Young and old cats need more frequent visits, while middle aged cats with no underlying health issues may only require an annual trip to the vet. Unfortunately, health problems can affect even the cutest and friendliest cat breeds

Cat Age 

Recommended Vet Visits 

Kittens (0-12 months old) 

Every 4-6 weeks for vaccinations and deworming 

Annual wellness exam at 1 year old 

Adult cats (1-10 years old) 

Annual wellness exam 

Additional visits if needed to address specific health concerns 

Senior cats (10+ years old) 

Biannual wellness exams 

More frequent visits if needed to monitor chronic health conditions  

How Many Veterinary Visits to Expect for Kittens (Under 1 Year of Age) 

The captivating kitten phase, spanning from birth to a year of age, is a time of immense cuteness and rapid development. A kitten's background, whether as a found stray or adopted from a breeder or shelter, can influence their specific needs and vaccination schedule. Your cat may have received some vaccines before joining your family. The first vet visit and vaccines are typically performed at 8 weeks of age followed by 2 additional vet visits, each a month apart, for vaccination boosters and deworming.  To ensure your kitten's well-being and prevent the transmission of contagious diseases, a blood test for feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus is recommended, especially if you're introducing them to other cats at home. The last routine visit your kitten will need in its first year is its spay or neuter procedure. This is typically performed at 4-6 months of age. 

Kitten at the vet having its heart listened to during a visit.

Recommended Vaccinations for your Cat 

How often do you take your cat to the vet depends largely on how many vaccines they need. Cats typically need require three vaccines: 

  • Feline Distemper—a combination vaccine covering a few upper respiratory viruses, 

  • Feline Leukemia—protection against a life-limiting virus spread by infected cat’s saliva, and  

  • Rabies—legally mandated for pets, this vaccine protects against a devastating viral illness that can be fatal to both cats and humans. 

All of these vaccines are important to protect your patient against preventable disease and keep them healthy. Kittens will need several vaccines and booster shots to complete their vaccination journey. The first booster shot is often given at 6-8 weeks of age, and the last one is given around 20 weeks. After that, they typically require booster shots every 1-3 years, depending on your local regulations. 

The science behind giving multiple vaccine boosters in kittens is two-fold. First, being exposed to the same organism or protein at a specific interval boosts the immune response to the vaccine. Secondly, young animals can still have antibodies from their mom’s milk in their system up until around 16 weeks of age, which can hinder their ability to form their own immune response to the vaccines.  

Parasite Prevention Recommendations for your Kitty 

Parasite prevention is also an important factor contributing to the question of “how often do you take a cat to the vet?” Even indoor cats can be exposed to fleas, ticks, and heartworm disease. This can happen when parasites are brought in by other household pets or even humans. Mosquitoes, which spread heartworm disease, can always find their way into your home and transmit the disease. Preventing parasites is always better than having to treat them.  

Annual intestinal parasite screening via stool sample is also recommended, which adds an additional visit to the list of how often should cats go to the vet. A sample can be collected from the litterbox or in cases where it is a challenge to identify or catch a sample from a specific cat in your household, annual deworming that covers common parasites can be a good option.  

How Many Vet Visits to Expect for a Healthy Adult Cat (1-10 Years of Age) 

Young adult cats between the ages of 1-10 years will require at least an annual visit. Besides some vaccines being due annually, it is smart to have your pet examined head-to-tail by a veterinarian each year to ensure there are no underlying health issues. This also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have and to ensure any new quirks your cat has developed are not related to health issues. 

As your cat ages, you may notice new behaviors or changes in their habits. Annual checkups provide a platform to discuss these observations with your veterinarian and rule out any underlying medical causes. Whether it's a change in appetite, litter box habits, or energy levels, your veterinarian can help determine if these changes are normal or require further investigation. 

So, if you’re wondering how often do you take a cat to the vet during their healthy middle years, the answer is generally just once a year, unless any problems arise.  

How Many Veterinary Visits to Expect for a Senior Cat (10 Years of Age and Older) 

As your feline companion transitions into their senior years, their veterinary care needs evolve to ensure they continue to live a healthy and comfortable life. Regular checkups become even more crucial during this stage, with biannual exams recommended for cats over the age of 10. 

This allows the veterinarian to check your pet from head to tail looking for any concerns that need to be addressed. It is important to monitor older cats’ weight, which will also be done at these visits every 6 months. Having bloodwork and a urine check performed every 6-12 months in your elderly cat is important to catching diseases such as chronic kidney disease or hyperthyroidism early so they can be managed efficiently and timely. Your vet will also watch your pet walk around the room to look for signs of discomfort or stiffness that could be related to arthritis and offer management solutions to improve your pet’s quality of life. 

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to how often do you take your cat to the vet in their senior years, though at least twice a year is recommended. If you have any worries about your cat's health or behavior, it's always best to err on the side of caution and take them in. Early detection of health problems can make a big difference in your cat's quality of life and how long they live. 

Factors Affecting Frequency of Veterinary Visits 

How often do you take a cat to the vet will also depend on your cat’s lifestyle and individual health conditions. For instance, cats who enjoy the great outdoors, especially those with a penchant for hunting, may require more frequent deworming and parasite prevention to keep them safe. 

Cats who have more involved health conditions such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease will need more regular visits as some disorders require regular monitoring to check for control or progression of the disease.  

Long-haired cat laying on the floor at the vet office.

Accidents and Illnesses in your Cat: When to Be Concerned 

Besides routine visits, accidents and illnesses will affect how often you take a cat to the vet. It is important to monitor your pet’s food and water intake, and excretions on a daily basis. Symptoms such as not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, bleeding, straining to urinate, severe pain, mental dullness, or seizures should prompt an urgent vet visit. Weight loss, unless intended, should also prompt a vet visit to check for underlying disorders like hyperthyroidism or diabetes. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health or well-being, it is always better to take them in for evaluation as soon as possible. In some cases, you may get peace of mind from your vet that nothing is wrong, while other times you may have caught an illness just in time to treat it and have a positive outcome.  

Keeping your Feline’s Health Covered  

You’ll want to have your cat established with a primary care veterinarian so that in the event of illness or injury, your vet knows your cat’s unique medical history and can get you in for an appointment. It can take a few days to get into a vet clinic as a new client, so having a good relationship with your pet’s vet and taking them in for their annual wellness exam is essential. 

In the event of injury or illness, it is also in your best interest to get cat insurance so that you, as a pet owner, are not faced with a large, unexpected bill. Veterinary medicine can cost a lot, especially in cases of emergency, and having pet insurance will make sure you can get your cat the help they need. Enrolling your cat in an insurance program early is crucial to prevent pre-existing conditions from being excluded from coverage.  Embrace pet insurance offers up to 90% coverage for injury and illness. An optional wellness package can be added for reimbursement for routine visits as well allowing for even better protection for your pet. 

Pet insurance is an investment in your cat's well-being, a financial safety net that shields you from the often unpredictable costs of veterinary care. Veterinary expenses, especially in emergency situations, can quickly soar to astronomical heights, leaving you in a financial bind. With pet insurance, you can rest assured that your cat's health will always take precedence, without worrying about the burden of medical bills, allowing you to focus on providing love, care, and companionship. 

Regular Veterinary Visits are the Best Way to Keep your Pet Healthy 

Navigating the world of feline healthcare can seem overwhelming, but by taking a proactive approach and establishing a strong relationship with a trusted veterinarian, you can ensure your beloved cat receives the care they need to thrive throughout their life. Regular checkups, timely parasite prevention, and prompt attention to any health concerns form the foundation of feline wellness, and all contribute to the question of “how often do you take a cat to the vet?” 

Remember, your cat's well-being is a lifelong commitment, and with the right care, your furry friend can enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life by your side. Embrace the journey and cherish the special bond you share with your feline companion.