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How Often Do You Take a Cat to the Vet?

Est. read time: 14 min.

One great thing about cats is that they are known for being highly independent animals. For the most part, cats are pretty low-key pets to have. But if you’re a first-time cat parent or have only had casual outdoor cats, you might be under the wrong impression about how often to take cats to the vet. 

Taking your cat to the vet helps with preventative care so that your cat can live a long and happy life. Depending on a few factors, you might consider bringing your cat to the vet multiple times a year, but at least once a year is necessary. 

So, how often do you take a cat to the vet? Keep reading to learn more about frequency guidelines depending on your cat’s life stage, common reasons to take your cat to the vet, and how to prepare your cat for their next visit.

Annual checkups are essential

A good rule of thumb is to take your cat to the vet every year for a checkup. For indoor cats between the ages of 2 and 8, you may be able to take your cat for a checkup every other year. Talk to your vet first before making this decision, as what they recommend is what’s best for your cat.

You will know your cat best and be able to recognize if there is any change in their behavior or overall health. If you ever feel that something is wrong with your cat, contact your vet immediately to set up an appointment. 

“Visiting your veterinarian is so important, especially as your cat ages. That’s because your veterinarian wants to do a complete physical examination. We want to pick up on some common causes of weight loss, increased vomiting, bigger urine clumps, and increased thirst in your cat; these are all signs of common diseases in older cats, such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and chronic kidney failure.”

– Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT  

Let’s break down what is typically recommended for vet visits, depending on what stage of life your cat is in.

When to take kittens to the vet

The first few months of a young kitten’s life will be filled with vet visits. That’s because kittens typically need to be dewormed, tested, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered all before 6 months of age. The earlier that you get all of these things taken care of, the healthier your cat will be and the more confident you will be about your cat’s health. 

  • At 6 to 8 weeks old, kittens should receive their first set of vaccinations (following a vaccination schedule) and get deworming treatments (depending on stool sample results). They will also be tested for FIV/FeLV (the feline leukemia virus). 
  • At 9 to 12 weeks, kittens should receive their next set of vaccinations. This may include the rabies vaccination, or your vet may wait until 16 weeks to give that shot.
  • Although cats can be spayed or neutered at any age, kittens should be fixed in the first year before 5 months of age to prevent early pregnancy. Many vets will spay or neuter as early as 2 months old. 

Staying on top of your kitten’s vet visits from an early age can help you set them up for success. Not only will you develop a rhythm when it comes to taking care of them, but they will have an easier time adjusting to being at the vet later on in life. 

When to take adult cats to the vet

Healthy adult cats should be seen by the vet annually. (Indoor-only cats between ages 2 and 8 may be able to get away with seeing the vet every other year—but talk to your veterinarian first.) 

This yearly checkup allows you to ask your vet questions about any changes in their daily life, from nutrition to behavior. You can work on a plan to improve the quality of your cat’s life as they begin to age by talking with your vet and getting their opinion. 

Veterinarians are a great resource because they are able to tell when certain care is required or could be useful in prolonging and improving your cat’s life. 

During your cat’s annual veterinarian checkups, expect the following: 

  • They will receive vaccine boosters every 1 to 3 years.
  • Your vet might recommend doing lab work (such as blood work) annually after 5 years of age just to monitor their levels and keep an eye out for developing health issues.
  • If your adult cat has a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, you may need to visit the vet more than once a year at the request of your vet.

When to take senior cats to the vet

Past 10 years of age, your veterinarian may recommend bringing in your senior cat twice a year for a checkup. This veterinary visit allows the vet to monitor your feline friend’s blood work and note any changes. Whenever an issue arises with a senior cat, it’s best to ask your vet for their opinion. 

  • Regular pet health screenings are very important at this stage. You may notice that your senior kitty has decreased energy or mobility, but don’t assume this is completely normal. Your cat could have undiagnosed arthritis or more. It’s best to have your vet check it out. 
  • Your vet will also want to do once- or twice-yearly lab work to check your cat’s kidney and liver function, blood count, urinary health, and more. This could include blood tests, urinalysis, and more.
  • Keeping your cat current on their rabies vaccine booster is required by law, even for senior cats.   

Reasons to take your cat to the vet

There are several reasons why you might be inclined to take your cat to the vet. Now that we’ve covered how often you take a cat to the vet, let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons to visit the vet, whether a kitten or a senior cat. 

Wellness checks

Wellness checks are part of your cat’s annual vet checkup and may include things like vaccine boosters, physical exams, flea/tick treatment, and more. Don’t hesitate to schedule a wellness check more than once a year if you notice your cat acting out of the ordinary or showing symptoms that something might be amiss.

These exams go over the basics to give the vet a better understanding of how your cat is functioning. It can be useful in spotting abnormalities or figuring out what kind of further testing can be done to help your cat.

The head-to-tail checkup should also monitor for the possibility of dental diseases. Part of pet care is dental care. Besides at-home care, your vet may recommend your cat for a professional dental cleaning. 

These regular checkups are also great for calming your mind and easing anxiety you might have about your cat’s health.

Litter box problems

One of the most common reasons to take your cat to the vet outside of wellness exams is if they’re experiencing litter box problems. Whether your cat is urinating outside the litter box, making multiple trips to the litter box without using it, experiencing constipation, or more—get to your vet, stat!

Get a little help monitoring your cat’s litter box habits with a WiFi-enabled, self-cleaning litter box like Litter-Robot! The Whisker app allows you to view how often your cat is going to the litter box and compare it with recent usage stats. With Litter-Robot 4, you can also monitor your cat’s weight.

Vomiting or diarrhea

Most pet parents don’t realize that cat vomiting isn’t normal. If your cat is vomiting more than 1-2 times per month, it’s worth talking to your veterinarian to make sure it isn’t due to a medical condition. Additionally, if your cat is vomiting frequently, keep an eye out for how much water they are drinking because they’re more likely to become dehydrated. 

The same goes for diarrhea: If (slowly) transitioning your cat to a new type of cat food doesn’t help with diarrhea, it’s time to see your vet. 

Weight loss or not eating

If you lose a pound here and there, it’s no big deal. But if your cat loses a pound, it’s time to get the vet. Your cat losing weight could stem from many causes, some of which are easily treatable. Others, less so. Get to your vet right away because the sooner diagnosed, the sooner treated.

Similarly, if you notice your cat not eating for a couple of days, try to get to your vet ASAP. That’s because cats can only go a few days without eating before they can develop fatty changes in their liver. This is called hepatic lipidosis, which can be life-threatening if not treated. 


Unfortunately, obesity is common among house cats. If you can’t easily feel your cat’s ribs, view a clear waistline from above, or see a visible tummy tuck from the side, your cat may be overweight or obese. 

Obesity predisposes cats to so many health problems: Obese cats are 4.5x more likely to develop diabetes, 7x more likely to develop musculoskeletal problems, and 2x as likely to die at a younger age. Your vet can offer advice on getting your cat back on track to a healthy weight.

Increased drinking/excessive thirst

If you notice your cat hanging around the water bowl, drinking excessively while still appearing dehydrated, or leaving giant clumps of urine in the litter box, you’ll want to make a visit to the vet. These could be signs pointing toward kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or feline lower urinary tract disease. It’s best to get this sorted out immediately so that whatever is happening doesn’t become worse.

Changes in mobility or decreased activity

As we mentioned earlier, senior cats often have undiagnosed osteoarthritis. Even your adult (non-senior) cat may be dealing with this issue. Keep an eye out for changes in mobility, altered gait, being slower to jump, acting stiff, and decreased activity in general. If you notice these signs in your cat, contact your veterinarian. 

Behavioral issues

Sometimes it’s not only physical symptoms that warrant a checkup. If your cat suddenly seems more aggressive or fearful or is acting out in some way, it’s time to get your vet’s advice. This could be related to a new family member at home (four-legged or two-legged), an underlying medical condition, and more. The goal is to squash the issue fast so that you can make sure your cat is comfortable and happy. 

Lumps and bumps

If one day you are petting your cat and feel an abnormal bump or lump, you may want to give your vet a call. Whether it’s simply swelling from bumping into something, or something more concerning like cancer growth, getting to the bottom of the problem fast is essential. Your vet might need to perform surgery, a biopsy, or give medication to your cat to help with the issue. 

Pet emergencies

Because cats have such stoic natures, they often don’t show clinical signs of illness until it’s severe. And because cats hide their signs, even subtle signs (like hiding) warrant an emergency visit to the ER veterinarian. You know your cat best, and if they begin to act abnormally, you should likely notice. 

Dr. Justine Lee provides these general guidelines on when you need to seek immediate veterinary attention—even if it’s in the middle of the night.

  • Hiding in unusual places
  • Difficulty breathing, like panting, open-mouth breathing, or a respiratory rate over 50 breaths/minute. (Hint: count the number of breaths in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the total breaths per minute.)
  • Not moving and lying in one spot
  • Crying out in pain
  • Being acutely paralyzed
  • Any trauma
  • Any poisoning
  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Any seizure activity
  • Making multiple trips to the litter box with no urine coming out (especially if there’s no urine at all in the litter box for more than 24 to 36 hours)
  • Straining to urinate or defecate in front of you or in unusual places
  • Excessive grooming of the hind end, with the penis sticking out (which may be due to a life-threatening feline urethral obstruction or urinary blockage)
  • Profuse vomiting (such as more than 6 to 12 times in a 12- to 24-hour period)
  • Not eating for several days
  • Lying near the water bowl and drinking excessively but still appearing dehydrated
  • Any string hanging out of any orifice (please don’t pull — leave this to veterinary professionals) 

Why does my cat not like the vet?

Most cats find vet visits stressful—if not downright traumatizing. Between the car ride in their carrier, the exposure to strange barking dogs and crying cats, and being poked and prodded by the veterinarian, can you blame them?

Veterinarian Dr. Justine Lee offers a few tips on how to prepare your cat for their vet visit:

  • Acclimate them to their carrier by setting it out a week or two before the vet visit. Sprinkle some catnip and treats in the carrier once a day to entice your cat to enter on their own accord.
  • Help minimize their stress by giving them, well, drugs! Dr. Lee loves the natural cat-calming pheromone product called Feliway; or, talk to your vet about prescribing a safe medication called gabapentin. 

The vet is your friend

Now you know that an annual vet visit is a good rule of thumb—but there are countless other reasons to see your veterinarian more often. Depending on your cat’s life stage, lifestyle, and health habits, it’s good to have your vet’s phone number handy at any time.


Do cats need to see a vet every year?

A good rule of thumb is to take your cat to the vet every year for a checkup. But depending on your cat’s life stage, lifestyle, and health habits, annual vet checkups may not be necessary. Talk to your veterinarian about what’s best for your cat.

Are hairballs a problem?

Cats will cough up a hairball from time to time. Usually, once or twice a month is considered normal, but anything more than that and a trip to the vet is probably a good idea. It is more common for cats with longer hair to cough up hairballs.

Does pet insurance cover vet checkups?

The type of coverage that you get on vet checkups depends on what pet insurance you choose—some insurance only covers emergency care, while others provide preventative care such as vaccines and wellness visits. Typically, it’s less expensive when you get pet insurance while your cat is young, as compared to older cats that have a higher risk of cancer, kidney failure, thyroid problems, heart disease, and more.

Can you negotiate vet bills?

It is not typical practice to negotiate vet bills. In extreme special circumstances, your vet may be willing to offer you a payment plan or drop certain service fees from the bill. Know that having a pet can be an extremely costly thing, especially if there are health concerns that come up. Just remind yourself to be prepared for anything.