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When Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?

When you think of all the things that you love about being a cat parent, chances are, visiting the veterinarian doesn’t come to mind. Depending on the cat, a trip to the vet can induce anything from mild anxiety to all-out panic for both cat and cat parent.

This may be one reason why, along with the misconception that cats don’t need to visit the vet as often as dogs, many loving and otherwise responsible cat parents avoid going to the veterinarian. Amazingly enough, although 83% of cats visit the veterinarian before their 1st birthday, over 50% don’t return until they are sick or in pain. However, the fact that the experience can be a bit fur-raising isn’t a good reason to avoid a visit to the veterinarian at least once a year, possibly more frequently if their age or other factors make it necessary.

To help raise awareness of the importance of regular wellness visits for our feline friends, August 22 has been declared National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day.

Here are a few important reasons not to wait until you think your cat is sick to schedule an appointment.

Cats Are Masters at Hiding Pain or Sickness

In the wild, cats may be cunning predators, but they are also prey. And if you’re prey, it’s a good idea not to let on if there is anything going on that might make you an easy catch. Your cat could develop a serious health condition long before you even suspect there’s a problem. Often the signs are subtle and easy to miss, like occasionally missing the litter box or a change in certain behaviors. Veterinarians know the right questions to ask and the signs to look for so that they can spot symptoms of illness that may not be obvious to even the most attentive cat parents.

Cats Age Faster Than Humans

There’s a big difference in the way cats age and the way humans age. Cats reach the human equivalent of 15 years old by the time they are 1, and when they turn 2, they’re actually 24 in cat years! After that they age 4 “cat years” for every calendar year. That’s a big change, and it’s plenty of time for new health conditions to develop. Taking your cat for yearly visits to the veterinarian is the best way to catch and treat any of those health conditions early.

Preventive Care is Better (and Cheaper) Than Reactive Care

Many medical emergencies can be avoided with regular, preventive veterinary care. Many common feline health issues, like diabetes, kidney disease, dental disease, and hyperthyroidism are much easier to treat when they’re caught early. And since many of them develop slowly, it may take months before the average pet parents realize that their cat needs medical attention.

Not only can your veterinarian spot the signs and begin treatment to save kitty needless pain, he may be able to point to red flags in your cat’s health that could help you avoid some serious health issues to begin with. For example, being overweight or obese puts your cat at risk for a number of health issues. And yet it’s estimated that more than 60% of cats are over their ideal weight. Your veterinarian can give you tips and suggestions to help you keep your feline at a healthy weight and avoid the dangerous consequences of packing on the extra pounds.

A Visit to the Vet May Not Be as Stressful as You Think

If you’ve been putting off taking your cat to visit the veterinarian because you’re afraid of stressing her out too much, I have good news for you. There are a few things that you can do at home to help your cat feel safe and more relaxed when the big day comes.

  • Start by leaving the carrier out in the open a few days or weeks in advance. This gives kitty a chance to explore it on her own terms and become familiar with it before she’s loaded in for a car ride.
  • Make the carrier even more familiar and comfortable by filling it with soft blankets and a few of kitty’s favorite toys.
  • Give your cat treats when she goes in the carrier so she learns to associate it with things she likes.
  • Try spraying a cat calming pheromone like Feliway or an herbal solution like Rescue Remedy into the cat carrier and your car about a half-hour before your trip.

In addition to what cat parents can do, many veterinary practices have taken steps to minimize the stress that their feline patients experience. Look for a veterinary hospital that’s certified by Fear Free Pets. These facilities have received special training on how to implement measures to take the “pet out of petrified,” putting both you and your cat at ease.

According to Dr. Liz Bales, the “Cat-vocate”, “Taking your cat to the vet in 2019 is a whole new experience. Veterinarians, technicians, and animal behaviorists have been working together to figure out what stresses you and your cat during the trip and during the visit.” She continues, “Together these great people have figured out how to minimize all that stress and make it a great day, not just for your cat’s health, but for you as well! Every cat needs to go to the veterinarian at least once a year for their basic healthcare. We know you love your cat, and now there’s no reason to be afraid of going to the vet!”

When you make your cat’s appointment, feel free to express your concern and ask what they do to cater to their feline visitors.

As for me, on August 22, I’ll be attending North America’s largest pet retailer trade show, SuperZoo, to get the scoop on great new pet products. But you can bet that I won’t let the day go by without picking up the phone and scheduling an annual visit for my cat, Olivia. She received a clean bill of health last time, which is pretty impressive for a 14-year-old cat! My husband and I are determined to keep doing all we can to keep her healthy and happy through her senior years, so monitoring her health with regular vet visits is a must.

If your cat’s visits to the veterinarian are less than regular, Take Your Cat to the Vet Day is the “purr-fect” time to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment.


Kristen Levine is a pet living expert, author and pet rescue advocate. She firmly believes we need pets as much as they need us, and thus founded the Kristen Levine Pet Living blog, where she shows us how to live happier, healthier lives through pets. Kristen lives in Florida with her husband, dog (Chilly), one cat (Olivia) and two miniature donkeys.