When To Take a Cat To The Vet

When to take cat to the vet

Your cat means the world to you, and you want to do everything you can to make sure they live a long and healthy life. Today, our Oakwood vets explain how often you should take your cat to the vet for routine checkups and preventive care.

How often do you take a cat to the vet?

The best way to make sure your kitty has a long and healthy life is to prevent serious illnesses or catch them early when they are more easily treated.

Bringing your cat to the vet regularly provides your veterinarian with the opportunity to monitor your kitty’s overall health, look for the earliest signs of disease, and offer you recommendations for the preventive care products that would suit your feline friend best.

At Oakwood Animal Hospital we understand that the cost of routine checkups and preventive care can be a concern, especially if your feline friend seems to be in perfect health. But taking a proactive, preventive approach to your cat or kitten’s health could save you the cost of more expensive treatments in the future.

What is a cat checkup?

Taking your cat to the vet for routine wellness exams is like bringing them to the doctor for a physical checkup. As with people, how often your cat should have a physical examination depends on their age, lifestyle, and overall health.

We typically recommend annual wellness exams for healthy adult cats, but kittens, senior cats, and kitties with an underlying health condition should see their vet more frequently for an examination.

How often should kittens see a vet?

If your kitty is less than a year old then we suggest bringing them to the vet once a month, with their first veterinary appointment taking place when they are approximately 8 weeks old.

Throughout their first year, kittens require multiple rounds of vaccinations to help protect them from common infectious diseases. Kittens should get the Feline Leukemia vaccine and the FVRCP vaccine which helps protect your feline friend from 3 highly contagious and life-threatening feline diseases, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FHV-1) Feline Calicivirus (FCV), and Feline Panleukopenia (FPL).

Your adorable little feline furball will be provided with these vaccines over the course of approximately 16 weeks and will go a long way in helping to keep them healthy their whole life.

The exact timing of your kitten’s vaccinations will vary depending on your location and the overall health of your furry friend.

Our vets recommend having your kitten spayed or neutered when they are between 5 – 6 months in order to prevent a host of diseases and undesirable behaviors as well as unwanted litters of kittens.

How often should middle-aged cats see a vet?

If you have a healthy adult cat between 1 – 10 years old, we recommend taking them in once a year for an exam. These examinations are yearly physical checkups that are completed when your cat seems to be perfectly healthy.

Throughout your adult cat’s routine exam your vet will implement a head-to-tail examination to look for early signs of diseases or other issues, such as parasites, joint pain, or tooth decay.

Your veterinarian will also provide your kitty with any required vaccines or booster shots, and have a conversation with you about your cat’s diet and nutritional requirements, as well as recommend the appropriate parasite protection products.

If your vet detects any signs of an arising health issue they will explain their findings to you and recommend the next steps.

How often should senior cats see a vet?

Cats are typically considered to be senior when they reach 11 years of age.

Since many cat diseases and injuries tend to be more common in older pets we recommend bringing your senior companion to the vet every 6 months. Twice-yearly wellness check-ups for your geriatric cat will include all of the checks and advice listed above, but with a few additional diagnostic tests to obtain extra insights into your furry friend’s overall health.

Some diagnostic tests we recommend for our senior patients include blood tests and urinalysis to check for early signs of problems such as kidney disease or diabetes.

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Geriatric cat care also includes a more proactive approach to keeping your feline companion comfortable as age-related issues such as joint pain become more common. If you have a senior cat, ask your vet how often you should bring your pet in for a routine exam.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

— Update: 20-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article The Secret to Knowing Whether Your Cat Needs to Go to the Vet from the website www.freeportvet.com for the keyword when to take cat to the vet.

Listen up—we veterinarians are human beings! We understand that just about everyone turns to Google for answers to questions they have these days, as we do the same thing. But when it comes to your precious fur babies, there are far too many instances when “Dr. Google” gives a misleading or downright wrong answer. This can lead to a prolonged illness that could have been nipped in the bud, possibly painful scenarios for your pet, or even death. We know, we know, this is depressing news, but if you’re well informed about the scenarios that require veterinary care for your pet and, for the sake of this particular article, your cat, you will be fine!

We’ve taken some time to answer some FAQs on this very topic so that you’ll know when you might be able to wait out a situation with your cat while you monitor it or whether you need to put the cat in the carrier and get to the vet STAT.

How do I know whether to take my cat to the vet?

If your cat isn’t feeling well enough to eat, or if they’re repeatedly vomiting, having issues urinating or defecating, or they’re lethargic and not moving around much, take them to the vet.

Do I need to take my cat to the vet for a cold?

Cats get a lot of upper respiratory congestion, and they tend to be viral in nature. If the cat is mildly ill with just a bit of sneezing, the fluid coming out of their nose is clear, and they’re eating and drinking, you’re probably okay. However, if they have a fever above 102, and they’re not eating or drinking, or if the fluid they’re sneezing out is yellow or green or bloody, seek veterinary intervention.

If it’s a viral infection, there isn’t much we can do for cats. But if they get a secondary bacterial infection, then your veterinarian can intervene with antibiotics. Also, if the cat’s not eating or drinking well, we can try other supportive methods, like subcutaneous fluids or appetite stimulant medications. There’s a lot we can do to ease their discomfort while they’re recovering.

What are some signs that my cat needs veterinary attention?

The most urgent need for veterinary care that we most frequently see is a cat that’s having trouble urinating. Many people don’t realize that even neutered tomcats can develop a urinary obstruction. That’s the biggest veterinary emergency we see besides significant trauma. If the cat is going to the litter box and is making efforts to go but can’t, that is a true emergency.

Other things that can wait a bit longer are perhaps if the cat is limping or if they’re not eating or drinking much, but they are at least eating or drinking a bit. But if the cat is having diarrhea, vomiting repeatedly, running a fever, is really lethargic, or has trauma or toxicity, that’s a cat that needs prompt veterinary care.

How do I know if my cat isn’t just simply getting older or if there is something wrong?

This is one that gets under our skin as veterinarians a bit, as age isn’t a disease! We can’t look at a cat and say, “Oh well, he’s 15, and that’s to be expected.” Most cats that are getting older and are starting to have symptoms out of the ordinary have something wrong.

The most common things we see in older cats are kidney failure, diabetes, tumors, and hyperthyroidism. Those are all conditions that require veterinary care, and they can be treated quite well—some better than others. But again, you can’t just chalk this up to them being old and slowing down. Any symptom of weight loss, lethargy, or changes in eating or drinking patterns all merit a trip to the veterinarian to get some diagnostics done. We can treat and manage many of those illnesses really well if we get to see the cat before the diseases have progressed too far.

Do veterinarians take care of stray cats?

This is an interesting question for veterinarians, as we often get clients who come in and say, “This isn’t really my cat. It’s a stray cat.” And then we ask them if they’ve been feeding them, and they reply in the affirmative. When we ask how long they’ve been feeding them, they’ll say, “Three years.” That’s not a stray cat—that’s your cat! Many people will try to deflect the ownership onto someone else to get the vet bill taken care of, but if you’re not at a humane society or a shelter, there is, of course, going to be a charge associated with treating that cat. A stray cat is only a stray cat until you pick them up, put them in the car, and drive them to the vet!

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My cat hasn’t eaten in a day or so? Should I bring them to the vet?

Yes, a cat that hasn’t been eating or drinking is a sick cat. As previously mentioned, there can be many reasons for that—an upper respiratory infection, an intestinal blockage, or urinary obstruction or blockage. If the cat’s in heat and you’re sure she’s in heat, it’s probably okay to wait as cats in heat often don’t eat well for a day or two. But that would be one of the only reasons to wait, and you have to be certain that the cat is, indeed, in heat. If you’ve done a diet change or something else that explains the loss of appetite, then you might be okay. Switch back to the old diet and see if that does the trick. Most times, however, if a cat isn’t eating or drinking, that warrants a trip to your veterinarian.

Do I need to take my cat to the veterinarian for dental care?

Cats are the most overlooked species when it comes to dental care, and, yes, they need it! Cats get dental disease that dogs don’t get. Dogs get tartar and break their teeth. Cats can have both of those things happen, but they can also get dental lesions similar to cavities (aka caries). Those cats are really painful. We can also see feline stomatitis. Which is inflammation of the gums, and those cats are also really painful. We need to intervene with dental care that may require anesthesia to get a good look at the cat’s mouth due to their pain.

Unfortunately, many cat owners assume that any cat that’s still eating doesn’t have dental issues. The truth is, any cat that enters their teens and older needs veterinary dental care. Of course, if you notice any dental issues when the cat is younger than that, please seek veterinary care to help your cat avoid unnecessary pain.

We understand that going to the vet isn’t always the most cost-effective or convenient event in your life, especially with cats, who are notoriously hard to get there! However, we also know that cats are very stoic creatures and tend to hide pain well. As such, if you see signs or symptoms that something is wrong, such as a sudden change in your cat’s behavior, you need to be the best pet parent you can be and bring that cat to us. If you have any further questions about cat illnesses or disease, please feel free to give us a call!

— Update: 25-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article How to Know When to Call the Vet for Your Cat from the website www.thesprucepets.com for the keyword when to take cat to the vet.

This article must be prefaced with a BIG disclaimer: I am not trained in veterinary medicine and have no skills in this area. I rely on my own veterinarian, who knows my cats, to use his training and expertise in diagnosing my cats' ills, when indicated. I write only from the viewpoint of one who has shared my home with dozens of cats over an equal number of years. I have had cats with distemper, cats with cancer, cats with FLUTD, cats with dental disease and on numerous occasions, cats with abscesses and/or other injuries. Throw in an assortment of undiagnosed (but not un-treated) ills, and I've had my share of trips to the veterinarian. And I learned at a very early age how urgent those trips can sometimes be.

I often get e-mails from folks describing various symptoms their cats are displaying and asking if I have any idea of the causes. Although I may often have ideas or opinions, my answer is always the same: “Even if I were a veterinarian, I would not attempt to diagnose your pet without a thorough personal examination. Your kitty needs to be seen by a veterinarian, without delay.”

Here are three simple rules I have devised.

The First Rule is “Know Your Cat”

I can't stress too much the importance of knowing your cat thoroughly. Through daily observation and through your petting sessions (during which you'll learn the normal “feel” of your cat's body), learn all about your cat's normal physical condition. By learning the “normal,” you'll be able to spot more easily when your cat is “out of whack.” Observe the following routines of your cat:

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  • Its Eating Habits
    Does it wolf down food in one sitting, or does it “graze” all day? A sudden lack of appetite should be cause for concern, particularly when combined with other symptoms.
  • Its Elimination Habits
    Become familiar with the size, color, consistency, and odor of your cat’s feces. Note the color and amount of its normal urine output, and how often it urinates daily. Diarrhea, constipation, or straining to urinate are all red flags that your cat needs to bee seen by your veterinarian.
  • Its Normal Gait
    A cat normally walks with a purposeful stride, in measured paces. Changes in a cat’s walking style can signify an injury or arthritis, and a veterinarian can help.
  • Activity
    Is your cat always ready for play? Is it normally energetic, e.g., running instead of walking from one place to another. Cats normally become less active as they age, but even a senior cat should play when presented with an interactive toy. Sudden changes in your cat’s activity level can signal an injury, lethargy, or depression, all of which are symptoms that should take you to the vet.
  • Grooming Habits
    Cats are normally fastidious creatures, and will spend a large part of their waking hours grooming themselves. Failure to groom regularly, resulting in a greasy, matted, unkempt coat, can be caused by arthritis or depression, among other causes, and is a signal the cat needs help. On the other side of the coin, a cat that suddenly starts grooming one particular area excessively may suffer a skin irritation, caused by fleas, allergies, or the grooming itself, and should be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Its Sociability
    Although cats have a reputation for independence, most cats are very sociable with the other occupants of their home, both human and four-legged. A previously social cat who suddenly starts huddling in a corner has problems, either physical or emotional, and needs professional help.
  • Behavioral Changes
    The classic example is a cat that suddenly starts urinating outside the litter box. Provided the box is clean, and there are no recent environmental changes (new cat, new baby, change of residence), inappropriate urination is often a symptom of a lower urinary tract blockage or infection, both very serious conditions. It should be seen by a professional, without delay.

The Second Rule is “When in Doubt, Call the Vet”

If your cat shows any one of the previously listed symptoms for more than 12 hours (or at all, if your cat can't urinate), or more than one of them for any length of time, I'd advise calling the veterinarian without delay. Obviously, emergencies are just that, and waiting any length of time could put your cat at risk.


Emergencies include injuries from accidents, burns, possible poisoning, insect stings or bites, seizures, or swallowing foreign objects, among others. These conditions all indicate a call to your vet during office hours, or a call to the the nearest emergency veterinary clinic after-hours. Other conditions, such as sudden and ongoing projectile vomiting or extreme lethargy also merit an immediate phone call.

Our senior cat, Bubba, throws up fairly frequently, usually soon after eating. We've learned not to be too alarmed about it, because we've had him checked out by our veterinarian several times. Some cats just eat too fast and if they have a particularly sensitive stomach, they'll hurl as a result. Still, we always watch him closely after these incidents, and if he ever showed any other signs of sickness (lethargy, weakness, continued vomiting, or the significant “3rd eyelid”), we'd get him to the veterinarian immediately. We've had cause to do so on a couple of occasions. 

The Third Rule is “Know When to Search the Web”

The Internet offers a wondrous variety of information for those seeking it, and the wealth of veterinary articles about various diseases and conditions is a good example. I'm as quick as the next person to point the mouse to seek out more information about a particular condition, as I've done with Bubba on more than one occasion. But I did so, only after our veterinarian had examined Bubba and started a course of treatment. I'm sure our vet thought I was a pest, because I'd read an article and call him, saying, “What about this or that potential diagnosis?” He was understanding though, and put Bubba through every test I suggested, just to ease my mind. He also listened when I suggested some alternative treatment I'd read about. If he thought a holistic remedy might help, but more importantly, would do no harm, he'd give it a try. Otherwise, he would explain why it might not be appropriate.

The bottom line is that if you cat exhibits any unusual symptoms or a combination of symptoms, pick up the phone first, and after your veterinarian has examined kitty and prescribed a course of treatment, then pick up the mouse and surf to your heart's content, for a better understanding of your cat's condition.


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About the Author: Tung Chi