How often to take your cat or kitten to the vet depends on several factors:
If they have any chronic or ongoing diseases
Taking them in for regular vet visits will help your cat live as happy and healthy of a life that they can. It also gives you peace of mind, knowing that they are well taken care of.
Young kittens need a lot of veterinary checkups initially to make sure that they are growing and developing normally. Veterinarians check young kittens for:
Proper weight gain & normal growth
Internal parasites such as worms
External parasites such as fleas or ear mites
Normal heart sounds
Proper vision & hearing
Healthy teeth (incoming & outgoing baby teeth as well as incoming adult teeth)
This is also the time that the vet can help you figure out behavior issues, bathroom issues, when to spay or neuter your cat, getting along with human and animal family members, and keeping your cat on the right foods/preventive medications for him.
Older cats don’t usually need to visit the vet as often as young kittens, but they are more likely to develop health problems as they get older. A visit to the vet one to two times a year is ideal to make sure any health issues are caught early and managed as soon as possible. These visits are also a great time to discuss your concerns about age-related problems, such as arthritis and changes in urination or defecation.
In older cats, your vet will be specifically looking for:
Major changes from previous visits
Potential need for additional testing
Some vets and pet owners will opt to run yearly blood work on their cats to screen for internal organ issues or diseases that are not obvious on an exam. This helps to catch issues early and prevent any unnecessary suffering.
Vaccines or immunization shots are needed much more often in kittens than in adult cats. Kittens need a series of vaccines/boosters every 2-4 weeks, starting from age 6-8 weeks up until 16-20 weeks in order to fully protect them from certain diseases. Vaccines protect them from:
Kittens need an additional booster vaccine for these diseases when they reach one year of age. After that, depending on the type of vaccine, they may only need shots every 1-3 years.
Yearly checkups, even if vaccines are not due, help to make sure your cat is healthy overall. The vet will perform a thorough physical exam, looking at the skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and body condition/weight for any problems. The vet will also listen to your cat’s heart and lungs, palpate their belly, check joints for arthritis, and probably test them for parasites such as gastrointestinal worms.
If your cat has a chronic disease, something he was diagnosed with at a previous visit (e.g. diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer, etc.), they will probably need to be checked out more than once a year. Depending on how well managed the disease is, a checkup may only be needed twice a year. If they show signs of new issues, or if the chronic disease symptoms are hard to control, they may need to be checked more often.
If your cat starts showing new symptoms, such as not eating, limping, drinking or urinating a lot, throwing up, or having loose stool, go ahead and call your vet to schedule a checkup. While some of these issues may go away on their own, it is important to seek care as soon as possible to make sure your pet stays healthy and recovers well.