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Published: Mar 06, 2024 8 min read

Taking your cat to the vet for their annual checkup is essential to keep them happy and healthy. But how often do they need to go?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) feline preventive healthcare guidelines, all cats should visit their vet for a wellness exam at least once yearly. However, certain medical needs may require more frequent visits.

Here’s more information about how often your cat should go to the vet and how to tell if they need to be seen by a veterinarian.

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How often cats should see a vet by age

Kittens and senior cats may need to visit the vet more often than middle-aged adult cats. Kittens usually require multiple rounds of vaccines, while seniors may have more medical needs.

The following list contains general guidelines for vet visits by age. However, this can vary by cat, so consult your veterinarian.

  • Kittens (up to one year old): Every three to four weeks as needed for vaccinations, tests and other procedures
  • Adult cats (one to 10 years old): At least once every year or as needed
  • Senior cats (10 years or older): Once every six months, but no less than once per year

How often should kittens see a vet?

Your cat’s first year will likely require a lot of trips to the vet.

Young kittens will receive a head-to-tail examination during their first visit to uncover any medical needs. They may have blood work done as well as other tests. They’ll also receive their first round of vaccinations.

Vaccinations are an extremely effective way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. By law, many states require all pets to get the rabies vaccine. Beyond that, your veterinarian may recommend shots based on your location, your cat’s lifestyle and the risk.

The AAHA has guidelines for core vaccines pet cats should receive. The core vaccines include:

  • Feline panleukopenia (FPV), also known as feline distemper
  • Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), also called feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR)
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline leukemia vaccine (FeLV)
  • Rabies

Some shots may protect against a combination of the above diseases, such as the FVRCP vaccine, which protects against FVR, FCV and FPV.

You may get your cat spayed or neutered, which can be done once your cat is five or six months old. Spay and neutering procedures prevent your cat from reproducing, thus helping control the number of unwanted pets in animal shelters. While vets commonly recommend the procedure, it’s not required. Be sure to ask your vet all the questions you have before deciding.

Once all the kitten vaccinations and other procedures are complete, your cat can visit annually for wellness checkups.

How often should adult cats see a vet?

Healthy adult cats typically need to see a vet once per year for their wellness exam. During this exam, your veterinarian will check your cat’s overall health. Your vet will examine their skin, teeth, eyes, heart, lungs, abdomen, joints and lymph nodes.

They may also conduct the following routine tests, which require lab work:

  • Blood test
  • Fecal test
  • Urinalysis

You also need to stay up-to-date on vaccine boosters. Your cat’s vaccination schedule can vary, but they typically need booster shots every one to three years, depending on the vaccine.

Beyond the annual wellness visits, your cat may need to go to the vet for illnesses, health conditions, injuries or medical emergencies. Always consult your veterinary care team if you have concerns with your cat’s health.

How often should senior cats see a vet?

Older cats still need to visit the vet for their yearly physical checkup, but your veterinarian may recommend coming in more often, such as every six months.

As your cat gets older, they may develop various health issues associated with aging. Some of the most common include kidney disease, diabetes, dental disease, tumors, cancer and hyperthyroidism. Your feline friend can often be treated, so it’s important to take them to the vet.

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Signs you should take your cat to the vet

Your cat may need treatment throughout the year beyond their annual checkup. They could develop an illness or get injured. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s wrong, so here are some signs you may need to go to the vet:

  • Abnormal vomiting and diarrhea
  • Crying, howling, hiding and other signs they are in distress
  • Changes in appetite and eating or drinking habits
  • Changes in litter box habits (especially if they are having difficulty)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose or eyes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Extremely tired
  • Mood changes
  • If they were involved in an accident or fight with another animal
  • If you notice a lump or something else wrong
  • If they ate something they shouldn’t have

When you are in doubt, it’s always best to call your veterinarian to determine if you need to take your cat to the vet. If the vet thinks it’s an emergency, they may refer you to an emergency veterinarian's office.

Does pet insurance cover my cat’s vet visit?

Your cat’s vet visits may be covered by pet insurance, depending on the type of coverage you have. Traditional pet insurance by itself doesn’t cover the cost of preventative care, including wellness exams. However, many of the best pet insurance companies offer pet wellness plan add-ons that do.

If your cat needs to go to the vet for an accident or illness, the visit may be covered by traditional pet insurance depending on your policy. Always check with your insurer to see if such exams are covered.

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How often do you take a cat to the vet? FAQs

How often should indoor cats go to the vet?

Many people think indoor cats don’t need to go to the vet as often as outdoor cats. However, the AAHA and AVMA recommend all cats visit the vet at least once yearly for their annual exam.

Indoor cats still need their checkups every year to ensure they are healthy because they can still develop conditions, illnesses or injuries.

How much does a vet visit cost?

The cost of a routine vet visit can vary by location and veterinarian. However, on average, they cost between $25 and $186, according to the Average Pet Wellness Check Study by State, conducted by ASQ 360° on behalf of CareCredit.

Are annual vet visits necessary for cats?

Annual vet visits are recommended for all cats according to the AAHA-AVMA feline preventive healthcare guidelines. Many people think cats don’t need to visit the vet regularly, but that’s a common misconception. You should still take your cat to the vet every year as it benefits pet health. It can also help uncover any medical conditions that need treatment.

Summary of Money’s guide on how often you should take a cat to the vet

Regular checkups are essential for your cat’s well-being so they can live a healthy life. The AAHA-AVMA feline preventive healthcare guidelines suggest that all cats go to the vet at least once yearly for their annual physical exam. However, depending on your cat's needs, your cat may need to visit more frequently than that for other treatments.

Here are general guidelines by cat’s age, though this can vary by cat:

  • Kittens (up to one year old): Every three to four weeks as needed for vaccinations, tests and other procedures
  • Adult cats (one to 10 years old): At least once every year or as needed
  • Senior cats (10 years or older): Once every six months, but no less than once per year

Always consult your veterinarian on how often your cat should go to the vet. Additionally, if you notice something wrong with your cat, such as changes in behavior or habits, call your veterinarian to see if you need an appointment.