The average life span of a house cat is around 14 years old -- that's 10 years longer than the average for cats that live strictly outdoors, according to PetPlace.com. While your homebound furbaby won't encounter many of the dangers common to outdoors cats, she will need to see the vet regularly.
Young kittens will need a vet visit on a monthly basis until they reach around 4 months of age to get their necessary vaccinations and to check for illnesses. They will need to return as they approach 6 months for their spaying or neutering procedure. Kittens reach adulthood at 1 year old, when they will also need to visit the vet again for a checkup.
The average adult indoors-only cat should see the veterinarian for regular health exams every six months to a year, the VetInfo website advises. Even if your kitty appears perfectly healthy, your veterinarian will have a chance to evaluate her during the yearly exam. Cats tend to hide signs of their illnesses, so you may not pick up on them as your vet will. By seeing your cat one to two times yearly, the vet will also get an idea of the normal behaviors and weight fluctuations of your cat. This is helpful to him in monitoring for changes that could indicate an illness. Early diagnosis of any problems is the key to treating them and protecting your kitty's health.
Indoor cats between 7 and 10 years of age are considered mature and should see the vet twice a year to monitor them for illnesses common in older animals, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. If your cat is a senior (over 10 years old) she should be seeing the vet every three months, especially if she is more than 15 years old, which is considered geriatric. Older kitties, even those that live indoors, tend to develop problems like obesity and kidney or liver issues that need careful monitoring by a veterinarian.
Cats need to see the vet at least once a year because they need their vaccinations. While indoor cats don't need as many vaccinations as those that live primarily or partially outside, they need what are considered "core" vaccines necessary for all cats, according to WebMD. Rabies vaccinations are typically required annually, although some newer vaccines can last up to three years. Check with your veterinarian about any state laws regarding rabies in your area. Some municipalities may require mandatory proof of a yearly rabies vaccination.
The other vaccine recommended for indoor cats is the combination FVRCP vaccine, which protects against viruses and distemper. This vaccine is traditionally administered annually. Because the immunity provided by the FVRCP vaccine can actually last up to three years in some cases, your vet may recommend a simple titer test for your cat before vaccinating her. The blood test will ascertain if your cat's immunity levels are still acceptable during her annual visit. This way, he won't have to revaccinate your kitty as often, according to the Animal & Bird Clinic of Mission Viejo. Other annual vaccines are usually reserved for outdoor cats.
In addition to your cat's yearly or twice-yearly visit to the vet for a checkup, a trip to the vet is in order any time she exhibits signs of an illness. Indoor cats may suffer from things like diabetes, kidney problems, urinary tract infections and urinary stones. Signs of illness include lethargy, weakness, unusual vocalizations or behavioral problems. If your cat is eliminating outside of her litter box or vomiting frequently, she may be suffering from an illness and needs to see a vet immediately. Cats that have previously been diagnosed with chronic illnesses like heart problems, diabetes or kidney disease need more frequent visits to the vet than their healthy counterparts. How often depends on the condition; consult with your vet about how often to bring in a cat suffering from an ongoing medical problem.
Your indoor cat will be seeing the vet less often than an outdoor one, primarily due to the fact that they are safer and not exposed to the dangers of wild animals and cruel acts of strangers. An indoors-only cat still should be seeing the vet at least annually for a health exam and for any surgical procedures, such as spaying, neutering or dental cleaning. Cats with certain conditions, such as cardiomyopathy, may require yearly or twice-yearly visits to the vet to monitor these conditions with special medical tests or procedures. For example, the vet may monitor her heart function through the use of echocardiography or an ECG.
The Vet Visit
Prepare your kitty for the trip to the vet by exposing her to her carrier a few days before the visit, adding treats or toys inside to make it seem appealing to her. Always keep her in the carrier on the way to and from the vet, and while waiting for the vet in the waiting area of the doctor's office. Tell your vet about any vital information, such as recent changes in her health or behavior. Ask for clarification about any medical conditions he may diagnose your cat with. If any medications are prescribed, get exact dosing instructions and be sure to bring your cat back for any recommended followups.
- KPBS: How Often Should You Take a Cat to the Vet?
- PetPlace.com: Getting the Most Out of Your Cat Visit to Your Veterinarian
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: It’s Take Your Cat to the Vet Week
- VetInfo: 7 Frequently Asked Cat Questions About Health Care
- WebMD: Should You Have an Indoor Cat or an Outdoor Cat?
- PetPlace.com: The Great Debate: Indoor Versus Outdoor Cats
- WebMD: Vaccinations for Kittens and Cats
- Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod: When is My Cat Considered a Senior?
- IDEXX Laboratories: Cats’ Silent Killer
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.