When was the last time you took your cat to the vet? Probably more than a year ago, right? Well, that is very, very wrong.
I know, I know. Taking your cat to a veterinarian can be incredibly stressful to them—and you. But it’s something that has to be done if you want your furbaby to have a long, healthy, and happy life.
This was one of our recent trips to the vet—we wanted to make sure the girls always “feel good, so good!”
When should I take my cat to the vet?
I’m not saying you need to be going to the vet with your cat all of the time, but there are certain times when you definitely need to make an appointment.
Once a year until she is a senior, then go every six months.
After you’re done with all of the initial kitten checkups and vaccinations, you should start taking your cat into the vet for an annual wellness visit. This visit should include a nose to tail examination, boosters of any vaccines that are needed, and bloodwork. Honestly, the visit should only take about 30 minutes max, but will leave you with invaluable peace of mind.
The exception to this yearly rule for wellness visits is for senior cats, who should go to a vet checkup once every six months. This is because senior cats’ health can rapidly decline if an issue goes undiagnosed and untreated. By taking your older cat to be examined more often, your vet will be able to help you find and address any minor problems before they become major—or even life-threatening.
When she is experiencing any behavioral changes.
Another time when you absolutely need to get your cat to the vet is when she isn’t acting like herself. Whether she is peeing outside of the litter box, exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, or simply not as energetic as she usually is, you need to have her seen by a veterinarian. These—and other behaviors—could be a sign that something is seriously, medically wrong.
Cats are pros at hiding their pain, so often, their suffering gets overlooked. This ability to pretend like they are fine is a part of their natural instinct to help protect themselves in the wild. If it gets to the point where your cat is showing physical or behavioral signs of distress, you need to listen and respond as quickly as possible.
Belle is definitely not a big fan of going to the vet, which is hard considering she is our girl who ends up at the vet multiple times a year with ear infections or other worrying symptoms.
How do I find a vet for my cat?
Cats are not small dogs. You need a vet who both understands that and truly understands your cat. But how do you find one?
Search online for fear free vets who specialize in cat health.
One great way to find a vet who will be attune to what your cat needs is by searching for a certified fear free vet near you. These vets are trained in best practices for caring for your cat, and have offices that are set up to minimize the stress of your cat’s visit—like separate waiting areas for dog and cat patients. If there isn’t a fear free vet in your area, try searching for phrases like “cat specialist vet near me.”
Ask other cat guardians who their vet is.
Sometimes the best way to find a great vet is by word of mouth. Reach out to other cat guardians you know—both on Instagram and offline—to see who they use, and what they think of them. Listen to their personal experiences when it comes to both wellness and sick visits to help you get a grasp of the vet’s practice.
Meet potential vets in person.
I get it, this seems old school in the days of smartphones and Google, but actually going to vet offices in person for a meet and greet can be incredibly beneficial in helping you decide who your cat should go to. Even simply having a preliminary phone call—where you ask about the veterinarian’s approach to cat health or their availability for emergency appointments—can help you narrow down your list.
Remember: You can always change vets at any point in your cat’s life if you feel like they aren’t getting the care they need, and you are always free to get a second opinion from another vet before making any decision.
Never feel pressured into making a medical decision for your cat, just because one vet says it is the right thing to do. If you have any question at all about the decision, and if it isn’t an emergency situation, take your time to do your research and consult other professionals. You are the only person who can be the best advocate for your cat’s health.
When Snickers was sick, we took her to over ten appointments at three different vets. Her health came first, and that meant getting second (and third) opinions.
Once you have found a vet that works for you and your cat, it’s time to get ready for the big day.
7 Ways to Make Your Cat’s Vet Visit Less Stressful
The day of the vet appointment, there are a number of different things you can do to keep your cat comfortable and help reduce stress.
- Act normal. Your cat feeds off of your energy, so if they notice you acting weird, they’ll know something is up. Go about your day as normal, and try not to tip her off that anything out of the ordinary is about to happen.
- Bring in her a comfortable carrier. Never just carry your cat into the vet. She will be on edge, and the last thing you want is for her to jump free from your arms and run away. Instead, use a comfortable carrier and latch it completely. We love our “catpack” – a backpack for carrying our cats.
- Use pheromones. A lot of cat-loving vets already spray calming pheromones in their cat exam rooms, but you can also spray them on your cat’s carrier twenty minutes before loading her in.
- Wait in the car. Once you arrive at the vet, call them to let them know you are there, and ask if you can wait in your car until the exam room is open. This will help keep your cat away from other animals who she is unfamiliar with.
- Hold her. Nothing is more scary than a cold metal exam table. If you can, and your cat wants you to, hold her during the duration of your visit when the vet isn’t actively looking her over. I would always keep Snickers in my arms during her vet visits, and she would put both arms around me in a big hug, holding on tight.
- Give her a favorite treat. Bringing along a favorite treat (or two) will help distract your cat and keep her happy when the vet is doing the checkup or even drawing blood.
- Go straight home. Once the visit is over, go straight home, avoiding any unnecessary stops that could stress your cat out more. However, if your cat is acting okay and enjoying the change of scenery, you could consider making a quick stop at PetCo to let her pick out a new toy for being such a brave girl.
Rainbow is such a sweet sister, always protecting Belle from the scary vet!
Caring for You Cat After Her Vet Visit
The hard part may be over, but your cat could still feel stressed for hours, days, or even weeks after her vet visit. To help her feel better and further relieve her stress, do the following:
- Keep your house calm and quiet. This goes back to the fact that cats feed off of the energy you provide. When you have a calm, quiet house, your cat will be able to recuperate faster.
- Give her space. Even the most snuggly lap cats may not want to be around people for a while after a big event like a vet visit. Respect that, and give her space to decompress.
- Provide plenty of food and water. When cats are stressed out, they can have changes to their eating habits. Try to limit this by always having fresh water and plenty of food available to her.
- Get back into her normal routine. Cats thrive when they have a routine. The best thing you can do to help relieve the stress of a vet visit for your cat is to get her back into her normal routine. She’ll pick up on your cues, and will be back to her old self soon.
Even though it can be an inconvenience to both you and your cat, you need to take your cat to the vet regularly and whenever they are showing any symptoms of illness. It may not be very fun in the moment, but by taking care of your cat, you are showing her how much you love her and providing her with a better quality of life overall.
Thankfully, even though they do experience stress from their trips to the vet, Rainbow and Belle tend to bounce back pretty quickly once they are back home. When Snickers was sick, she was a total champ when it came to being seen by the vet—I truly do think that she knew we were doing everything we could to help her feel better.
How do your cats react to the vet? Tell me all of your stories in the comments below!
I know a lot about cats, but I’m not a veterinarian. Please don’t take any of the statements I give as medical advice and do always consult your trusted vet, especially if your cat is experiencing behavioral challenges.