Most veterinarians treat feline patients, so it should be easy to find a cat vet in your area. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't put some time and effort into finding a veterinarian with whom you feel comfortable and who you trust. If you're in the market for a new pet doctor, ask friends and family members for recommendations.
At the minimum, cats should see a veterinarian once a year for a wellness exam. At this time, your cat will receive any necessary vaccines she needs, and receive an overall health check. The vet will listen to her heart and lungs, check her teeth, eyes, and ears, palpate her organs, and check her skin, fur, and overall body condition. Depending on her age and health, your vet may want to conduct additional diagnostic testing, including blood work or fecal samples.
Your veterinarian will also offer advice on at-home care, including grooming, exercise, and diet. She will explain to you what your cat's ideal health looks like - including her weight, skin and fur condition, and temperament.
Grooming includes nail trims, fur brushing, and ear cleaning. Most cats keep themselves clean and don't require traditional soap-and-water baths. However, if your pet cat is older, obese, or otherwise unable to clean herself, you may need to give her a hand.
Another important part of keeping your pet healthy is keeping your pet safe. This includes keeping her indoors, and outfitting her with a cat-safe collar and ID tag. And to really safeguard your pet from becoming a stray, consider microchipping. This permanent form of identification can help you reunite with your cat in the event that she is lost and brought to a shelter, animal control kennel, or veterinarian's office (anywhere they would have a chip scanner). To learn more about pet safety, including safe transport and first aid, visit our Pet Safety page.
Your cat should also be seen by a veterinarian anytime you have a concern about her health or wellness. This includes if she appears to be injured or in pain, or is experiencing a change in temperament, activity level, or appetite, as these are often indicators of illness or injury. It's better for your cat's health (and your wallet) to catch a problem early on rather than postponing treatment.
The most important vaccines include the FVRCP vaccine (often referred to as cat distemper) and the Rabies vaccine. Depending on your cat's lifestyle - for instance, if she's ever allowed outdoors - your veterinarian may also recommend additional vaccines, including that for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Keep in mind that ALL cats, even those that are indoor-only, should receive the FVRCP and Rabies vaccines.
Vaccines are typically administered in the following series. Your veterinarian may alter your pet's schedule based on need or personal recommendation. Always defer to your veterinarian, as she knows your pets best.
FVRCP vaccine (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia)
This vaccine is first given by 4-8 weeks of age, in a series of boosters every 4 weeks until 16 weeks, and afterward, once a year. It protects against several highly contagious and some often fatal diseases of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
This vaccine is first given at about 6 months of age, then given 9-12 months later (but not one day late). After two vaccines are administered on time, it's given once every three years for life. It protects against rabies, a fatal virus that can transmit to any mammal, including humans.
We also highly recommend that you spay or neuter your pet cat as soon as possible (ideally, before 4 months of age, when their adolescent period begins). Spaying and neutering not only helps prevent unwanted litters, thereby curbing the cat overpopulation problem, it also has many health and behavior benefits. Visit our Why Spay-Neuter? page to learn more about the benefits to early spay-neuter.