How Often Should You Take Your Cat to the Vet?


Ru Chen

- Updated April 26, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Kittens and senior cats require extra vet attention
  • Pet owners should recognize signs of cat health problems
  • Adult cats should visit the vet at least once a year
How Often Should You Take Your Cat to the Vet?

Regular vet visits are vital to your cat’s health and well-being. Cats need to see the vet based on age, breed, lifestyle, and other factors. When vets perform health check-ups on cats, they can detect health risks and conditions early, allowing for better treatment.

Unsure about the optimal frequency of vet visits for your feline friend? Let’s dive into how to know when you should bring your cat to the vet, signs your cat needs veterinary attention, and how to budget for pet expenses.


Understanding the Veterinary Needs of Cats

Differences between health risks of indoor and outdoor cats

Outdoor cats have free access to the outside world, which means significantly higher exposure to health risks. The average life expectancy of an outdoor cat is ten years shorter than that of an indoor cat. Common incidents involving the outdoor lifestyle for cats include:

  • Car accidents
  • Injuries from other animals
  • Poisoning
  • Parasites
  • Toxic flowers and plants
  • Feline leukemia
  • Animal cruelty

Indoor cats have lower risks of getting into accidents. However, being secured indoors doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any accidents or health issues. Reasons indoor cats might need to see a vet include:

  • Obesity from lack of exercise
  • Indoor hazards
  • Loneliness, boredom, and stress
  • Separation anxiety
  • Indoor toxic hazards (e.g. cleaning products)

Common health issues for cats of different ages

Cats of different ages are vulnerable to different types of health concerns.

Kittens are more vulnerable to:

  • Respiratory illnesses: Bordetella, feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline calicivirus (FCV), and feline pneumonia.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: feline panleukopenia (FPV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and intestinal parasites.
  • Skin issues: mange, fleas, ticks, ringworms, and dermatitis.
  • Eye problems: conjunctivitis, feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1)

Senior cats are more often affected by:

  • Hypertension: Many cats have high blood pressure. This may be caused by chronic kidney failure or thyroid disorders.
  • Diabetes mellitus: When blood sugar cannot be properly regulated due to insufficient insulin. Cats with diabetes will need to have a special diet and daily insulin injections.
  • Chronic kindey failure: 1 in 3 cats have weakened kidney functions later in life. This may be caused by kidney stones, infections, toxic ingestion, or breed-specific predispositions.
  • Cancer: Generally affects older cats more than younger cats. Typically, cancer develops over a long period of time in cats.
  • Obesity: As cats age, they might have decreased energy levels, which can lead to a lack of exercise. Obesity can increase the risk of other conditions, such as diabetes.

Adult cats may be affected by the same health conditions as kittens and older cats. All cats can benefit from routine vet visits so that they can receive thorough health checkups.

Common health issues based on cat breed

Some cat breeds are susceptible to breed-specific health conditions. This is generally caused by the selective breeding and in-breeding that results in cats with “desirable traits”, such as a unique appearance. Here are some commonly encountered conditions in certain cat breeds.

  • Bengal: allergies, bladder stones, heart and kidney problems, luxating patella, and progressive vision loss
  • Maine coon: cardiac hypertrophy, hip dysplasia, obesity, stomatitis
  • Siamese: retinal issues, cancer
  • Persian: bladder stones, eye problems, skin issues, haircoat disorders, portosystemic shunt
  • Burmese: diabetes, asthma, Burmese head defect, metabolic disease
  • Himalayan: asthma, dental disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, heart disease

The increased risk of inherited disorders in certain breeds means that pet insurance carriers will exclude these breeds from coverage or charge pet owners higher premiums.

The importance of routine and preventive care in maintaining cat health

Vaccines are crucial for disease prevention. Vaccine series and boosters reduce the severity of diseases that are harmful to cats. Core feline vaccines include those for feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, panleukopenia virus, leukemia virus, and rabies. These are recommended regardless of your cat’s lifestyle.

Parasite control is another form of essential care for cats, particularly outdoor cats. Cats need to follow a strict parasite prevention routine, which includes deworming internal parasites and fecal parasite exams. Parasites range from annoying to life-threatening when left untreated.

Dental care for cats cannot be understated. Most cats over the age of 3 have some sort of periodontal disease, which is irreversible and painful for cats. Routine dental cleanings and daily brushing of teeth can improve a cat’s oral hygiene and prevent dental disease and infections.


Frequency of Veterinary Visits for Cats

Kittenhood (0-1 year)

Kittens should see the vet every 3 to 4 weeks until they reach around 4 months of age.

Vaccinations: Kittens need to receive core vaccinations. The schedules can begin at 6 weeks of age and continue until they reach 20 weeks old. After a year, these core vaccines require boosters to maintain effectiveness.

Deworming: Kittens generally begin deworming at 6 weeks old, then at 8, 10, and 12 weeks. After that, kittens still need monthly deworming until they are half a year old.

Spay/neuter: Intact cats are more likely to catch diseases, have behavioral issues, and fight with other cats. Plus, spaying and neutering cats removes the risk of certain cancers. It is highly advisable to spay or neuter your cat.

Adult cats (1-7 years)

All adult cats should see the vet at least once a year even if they appear perfectly healthy. Routine health exams are an important part of all cats’ health care.

Annual wellness exams: A physical health exam lets vets perform nose-to-tail inspections. Special equipment and tests may be performed to check your cat’s health. Follow-up appointments might be requested if your vet notices something off about your cat’s health.

Vaccinations updates: Many vaccines require scheduled boosters to remain effective for cats. Check with your vet to see which vaccinations and boosters should be administered to your cat.

Dental cleanings: Cats should get their teeth deep-cleaned at least once a year. Professional dental cleanings allow vets to remove plaque and tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth and below the gum line.

Senior cats (7+ years)

Like kittens, senior cats require more frequent vet visits. They are more vulnerable to accidents and illnesses, particularly chronic illnesses that take months or years to progress.

Geriatric health screenings: As cats age, they will likely develop age-related health conditions. Healthy elderly cats should visit the vet every 6 months at minimum. Vets will perform blood tests and urinalysis to detect organ malfunctions.

Management of chronic conditions: If your cat has any chronic conditions (e.g. chronic kidney failure, arthritis, or diabetes), make sure you take them to the vet more frequently. The vet needs to monitor your cat’s condition for any changes, which may mean trips to the vet every few weeks or months.

Signs That Your Cat Needs Veterinary Attention Between Visits

Changes in litter box habits

It’s important to know your cat’s usual litter box habits so that any abrupt changes are noticed. Urinary obstruction in cats can be fatal, so prompt treatment is essential. Changes in litter box behavior include:

  • Elimination and soiling issues
  • Aversion to the litter box
  • Crying when using the litter box
  • Inability to eliminate

Weight loss

Unexplained or sudden weight loss is an alarming sign in cats. If you notice your cat’s weight dropping significantly over a short period of time, this is a medical emergency. A serious underlying medical condition might be causing rapid weight loss in your feline friend, such as kidney disease, cancer, parasites, and diabetes.

Change in appetite

Cats are known to be fussy about the palatability of their food. However, an abrupt change in appetite could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.


Throwing up hairballs every week or two is fairly common in cats since they groom themselves. However, vomiting repeatedly or abnormally should be viewed as a medical emergency. The cat may have ingested something toxic or is suffering from a medical condition.

Excessive grooming

It’s normal for cats to groom themselves. However, excessive grooming is a warning sign for more serious health issues. Common causes include:

  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Skin infections
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Parasites


A serious health issue could cause your cat to become lethargic, losing energy and interest in their favorite activities. Even naps won’t help a sedentary cat affected by lethargy. Causes of feline lethargy include:

  • Heart disease
  • Toxic ingestion
  • Infections
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Pain

X-rays and other tests might need to be performed by a vet to determine why your cat is lethargic.

Excessive vocalizations

Cats meow to communicate with people and alert owners of their needs. However, sometimes excessive vocalization requires veterinary attention. There may be an underlying medical cause or a worsening behavior issue. A vet can help you determine the best strategy for dealing with excessive meowing, after ruling out medical problems.


Finding Pet Insurance for Cats

Benefits of pet insurance

Financial protection: Pet insurance can help cat owners cover essential vet bills, potentially saving thousands of dollars over the course of your cat’s life. If an emergency strikes, pet owners can rest assured that pet insurance can reduce the financial stress.

Access to quality pet care: Pet owners with insurance are more likely to bring their cats to the vet for both urgent and routine needs. This can improve your cat’s overall health and wellness.

Peace of mind: Knowing you’re protected by pet insurance in case your cat needs veterinary attention can go a long way. Pet owners with insurance tend to feel less burdened by financial constraints so they can better focus on providing their cats with the necessary vet services.

Customizable plans: Plenty of pet insurance companies offer customizations and add-ons. These let pet owners obtain the kind of tailored pet insurance they need.

Factors to consider

Coverage type: Make sure to choose a suitable coverage type. Accident-only insurance is more affordable, but will not cover illnesses like comprehensive coverage does.

Premium: This refers to how much pet owners need to pay for active pet insurance coverage. On average, cat owners pay $32 a month for comprehensive pet insurance.

Deductible: You need to reach the pet insurance deductible by paying out-of-pocket. After that, insurance will kick in.

Insurer reputation: Solid customer service, a smooth claims process, and good coverage make for a good insurance company. Before buying an insurance product, read customer testimonials and expert reviews.

Types of coverage

There are three main types of insurance coverage for pets.

    1. Accident-only coverage: Covers accident-related vet expenses.
    1. Comprehensive coverage: Covers both accidents and illnesses.
    1. Wellness plans: Sold as an insurance add-on. Covers routine vet care, such as dental cleanings and vaccinations.

Here are some of the best insurance providers to get you started.

Importance of Budgeting for Veterinary Expenses

Cat owners usually pay around $50 for cat care every month, with the cost depending on the cat’s medical needs and the owner’s financial standing. It’s important to budget for the various types of veterinary services. Let’s go over the estimated costs of different vet expenses.

  • Routine vet care: $100 to $200
  • Emergency cat care: $150 to $3,000
  • Surgery: $500 to $5,000
  • Imaging: $75-150 per X-ray
  • Cat poisoning treatment: $250 to $2,000

Because of the high ceilings of veterinary costs, it’s a good idea for pet owners to procure pet insurance. This can greatly reduce the overall amount of money you need to budget towards vet bills.



Veterinary care is crucial for the overall health of cats. Emergency vet visits can be life-saving, while regular visits allow for early detection of health issues.

  • Kittens should visit every 3-4 weeks
  • Adult cats should visit at least once a year
  • Senior cats should visit at least twice a year
  • Worrying symptoms should be promptly checked by a vet

Always be proactive when it comes to maintaining your cat’s health. If you’re facing financial difficulties, consider obtaining pet insurance to offset the financial burden of veterinary expenses.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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