Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

Why Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

Cats need routine vet visits.

The ASPCA estimates that between 30 and 37% of all US households include at least one cat. That translates to between 74 and 96 million owned cats. However, in 2011, about 44.9% of cats with owners did not visit the veterinarian. This is in stark contrast to only 18.7% of dogs not visiting the veterinarian that year (Burns, 2013).

Why Aren't Cats Taken to the Veterinarian?

There are several common reasons that people give for not taking their cats to the veterinarian routinely, including:

  • Cost:  It can be difficult to budget for the cost of cat care, especially when you feel that your cat isn't having any problems. However, the price tag associated with preventive care is often much lower than that attached to caring for preventable problems once they arise. Likewise, catching and treating a disease process early is often less costly than treating it once it's more advanced.
  • No perceived illness or injury:  People often don't think of taking their cat to the veterinarian if they don't notice that there is any illness or injury going on. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" may be a good mantra for many things in life, but not necessarily for cat health.
  • Not due for vaccines:  Many feline vaccinations are now being given every three years or less. Oftentimes, people don't take their cat to the veterinarian unless he is due for vaccinations. This means that many cats only visit the doctor every third year.
  • Too hard to transport:  Cats aren't especially well-known for their love of riding in cars. It can be hard to get your cat in a carrier, difficult to listen to him cry or, worse, vomit all the way to the veterinarian, and no fun to endure the cold shoulder he may give you for a few days after your return home.
  • Indoor only:  Perhaps the most common reason people give for not visiting the veterinarian with their cat is that he always stays indoors. They feel that he doesn't need vaccinations or parasite control because he isn't as exposed to these illnesses as a cat that goes outdoors. While this is true to some extent, there are reasons to vaccinate and prevent parasites in indoor cats. Some of these are discussed in more detail in the section below.

So Why Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

With all of the reasons above for not taking your cat to the veterinarian, what are some motivations to bite the bullet, stick him in the carrier, and endure the ride to the doctor's office?

  • Weight evaluation and nutrition advice:  Today's cats, especially those that live indoors, have a tendency to become overweight. This condition can lead to many health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and painful joint problems. It isn't always easy to know what and how much to feed your cat, how to exercise him, or even to recognize whether he is overweight in the first place. Veterinarians can determine whether your cat has a weight problem and give you specific counseling to help.

  • Behavioral analysis and help:  Two of the most common reasons that cats are abandoned at shelters are inappropriate urination and issues with scratching furniture or other items. Your veterinarian can help you with these problems when they first begin, before they become an ingrained habit that may be extremely hard to break. Your veterinarian will rule out treatable medical causes and give you instructions and tips if it turns out that the problem is behavioral.
  • Dental care:  Cats can develop plaque, tartar, gingivitis, stomatitis, loose teeth, abscesses, and mouth ulcers. It can be extraordinarily difficult for owners to evaluate their cat's teeth on their own unless they are taught how. Your cat may very well be suffering without your knowledge. Your veterinarian will look at your cat's teeth and gums at every visit, and he or she can tell you the best way to care for them. This may include home dental care or a professional cleaning.
  • Parasites:  Feline parasites such as fleas, ticks, roundworms, and heartworms can, surprisingly, all affect indoor cats. Some of these parasites are brought into the home through insects, some may be brought in by a family dog or on the shoes or clothes of human family members. Sometimes parasites don't produce signs of illness in the cat, so you may not even be aware that your feline friend has them. Many feline parasites are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmissible to humans. For instance, roundworms can affect humans and lead to blindness. It's important to visit your veterinarian for your cat to be evaluated and treated for parasites on a routine basis.
  • Vaccines:  Vaccines in cats can be a bit controversial, but most veterinarians feel that they are important in cats, even indoor cats. Finding and visiting a veterinarian you trust, who can council you on the appropriate vaccines for your individual cat, is an important part of keeping your feline friend healthy.
  • Hidden illness:  Cats are notorious for hiding signs of illness. It can be difficult to know that they are suffering until the condition is quite advanced. Visiting the veterinarian routinely allows the doctor a chance to find and treat an illness before the signs may be noticeable at home.
  • Examination:  The single most important reason to take your cat to the veterinarian is so the doctor can do a thorough examination on your pet routinely. Having a professional look at, listen to, and feel your cat can catch problems while they're small, resulting in less suffering for your cat, and lower costs for you.

How Often Does My Cat Need to Go to the Vet?

In general, it is a good idea to visit the veterinarian with your cat twice a year. Don't forget, our cats age more quickly than we do, so a lot of changes can occur in that time period.


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Training Your Cat To Use A Pet Carrier

Bringing Home a New Cat: A Checklist

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