When to Take a Cat to the Vet How to Spot the Signs That Mean Your Cat Should See a Vet

When to Take a Cat to the Vet
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

It is hard to know when to take your cat to the vet, since they have no way of letting you know what is bothering them or how serious it is. Rather that rushing out the door every time your cat looks at you funny, read this before you make an unnecessary trip to the vet.

Sometimes it can be difficult to judge when your cat is in trouble and when they are experiencing a fleeting problem. While your cat will never be able to tell you directly what’s going on, you can learn to identify common signs that your cat isn’t doing well and should be taken to your local veterinarian for a check-up.

Does Your Cat Seem “Off”?

Since you spend a lot of time with your cat, you probably have a good sense of their typical behavior, like how much time they spend sleeping, how frequently they eat, and how much interaction they like. Any major deviation from how your cat generally behaves is an indication that there may be some sort of problem, especially if it lasts for an extended period. Be watchful for a change in your cat’s energy level if they become suddenly disinterested in cat food and play or if your cat hides from you in an atypical manner. Changes in your cat’s behavior can be a sign of an illness.

Vocal Communications

Similarly, you’re probably accustomed to how frequently your cat meows and communicates. If there is suddenly a lot more noise coming from your cat than usual or a lot less, it could indicate that your cat is experiencing pain or discomfort.

Physical Symptoms

If your cat is frequently sneezing, seems stuffy, or has eye discharge, they may have a simple cold, but there’s also the possibility your cat has feline herpes, feline calicivirus, or chlamydia. These more serious diseases require attention from a veterinarian (either an online vet or in-person) and prescription antibiotics.

Excessive grooming and hair loss can also indicate an illness. Both of these symptoms can occur due to an allergy, so if you have recently started using something new around the home, stop using it. It could also reflect that your cat has fleas, so check for the signs. However, hair loss and obsessive grooming can also occur because of more serious allergies, Cushing’s disease, or thyroid conditions. If you can’t resolve the problem with product changes or the elimination of any parasites, visit the vet to determine the cause of this symptom.

Attitude Toward Food

Generally, a change in feeding habits could indicate different diseases, from diabetes to hyperthyroidism, and should be taken very seriously. When cats skip eating for several days, they can develop hepatic lipidosis and use up their stored-up fat, causing problems to the liver. Even the best dry cat food like the Purina Cat Food - Dry will not appeal to them if they suffer from such problems. 

Litter Box Habits

Cats are generally fastidious about the litter box. So, pay attention if your cat starts going outside of the box. Check first that this isn’t happening because the litter is being changed too infrequently or because too many cats are sharing the same litter box. If those situations aren’t occurring, bring your cat to the vet since your cat may have a urinary tract infection, urinary stones, or other diseases.

Be mindful that bloody diarrhea, feces that are a tarry black color, and excessive vomiting are all sure signs of illness. If these signs of gastrointestinal distress last for more than a day or two, visit the vet to determine the underlying problem. Even with the world’s best cat litter box, like the Tidy Cats Litter - Tidy Cats Breeze, they might still show problems.

When To Take Your Cat To The Vet 

Cat owners probably won’t be surprised to learn that, according to the American Pet Products Association, cats beat out dogs as the most popular pets in America. Yet despite this fact, our feline friends tend to receive less veterinary care than our pampered pooches. The reasons can vary, but the widespread belief that cats are self-sufficient, and their tendency to hide signs of illness, can be influential factors.

The truth, however, is that cats aren’t as self-sufficient as we make them out to be. Their ability to mask illnesses is a reason to take them for vet visits more often. Indeed, cats require just as much regular veterinary care as a dog – sometimes more.

Why Do Cats Need Regular Check-Ups?

Regular veterinary check-ups let your vet examine your cat, make health recommendations, administer vaccination boosters, and identify any illnesses or injuries. These visits are vital for your cat’s overall health. If your cat has been hiding a medical condition, they can also be life-saving.

Your cat’s regular check-ups will most likely include the following:

  • A physical examination.
  • A discussion about your cat’s diet, exercise, bathroom habits, behavior, and environment. With this information, your veterinarian can make health recommendations or identify potential symptoms of an illness.
  • Vaccination boosters. Cats are typically on a 1 to 3-year schedule for boosters, depending on what kind of vaccines they have received.
  • A parasite inspection, including a physical examination to check for fleas and ticks and a fecal test to check for internal parasites. Parasite prevention will also be discussed.
  • A dental examination to check for signs of dental disease.

When To Take Cat To Vet

Now that you know how important your cat’s regular check-ups are, you’re probably wondering how often they need to take place. Most veterinarians recommend that adult cats go in for a visit twice a year. The reason is that illnesses can develop over short periods. Also, because your cat is likely to hide its symptoms, you won’t ever know if they are sick or well. A semi-annual visit allows your veterinarian to examine your cat and catch any health conditions before they progress and become expensive, hard, or impossible to treat.

As cats get older, owners should be especially vigilant about keeping an eye on their cat’s health and taking them for regular check-ups. Some veterinarians recommend that cats over 10 years of age should see the vet for a check-up every three months. This is because older cats are at higher risk for injury and disease.

In addition to their regular exams, you should take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any unusual symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, bathroom problems, frequent vomiting, or behavioral changes.

Veterinary Care For Longevity

While it can vary between indoor and outdoor cats, the average lifespan of a cat is around 13 to 17 years. However, it is not unusual for a cat to live up to 20 years old, and the oldest cat on record, Lucy, lived to be 39! Keeping up with regular veterinary care can be a factor in keeping your cat around longer. So book your appointment today.

More on Cat Health Care

Diets to Treat Cat and Dog Stress
How to Give a Pet Oral Medications
The Facts About Pet Health Insurance

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

Was this article helpful?
Thyroid - Hyperthyroidism Chlamydia Diabetes

You May Also Like