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Common reasons why cats have to visit the vet

With pet ownership on the rise, as well as the growing availability of specialist vet care including MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds, we’re seeing Australians visit the vet more often for their cats. Most notably, PetSure data found there’s a major peak in health-related expenses from vet visits between the ages of 13 and 15.

So, what are the most common reasons why cats have to visit the vet, and how can you as their owner, reduce the risk and the potential impact on your finances?

Your cat needs annual vaccinations every year

As a pet owner you already know that vaccinations are important for the ongoing wellbeing of your cat, but have you ever asked “what vaccines does my cat need?”

There is a range of vaccines for cats that protects against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, and these should be administered according to veterinary advice to ensure strong immunity:

  • F3 vaccine: A core vaccine that is recommended for ALL cats, starting from 6-8 weeks of age. It protects against diseases that affect your pet’s intestinal tract (Feline Parvovirus) and respiratory system (Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus, both viruses that can cause the disease complex commonly known as ‘cat flu’). These must be administered at regular intervals as advised by your vet; this will usually be annually, which also provides the opportunity for a thorough physical examination each year that helps to pick up and address health problems early.
  • FIV vaccine: The FIV vaccine reduces your pet’s susceptibility to the feline immunodeficiency virus, which is most commonly spread when cats interact. This is not a core vaccine, but your vet will advise it if your cat is at high risk of contracting the virus.

Vaccinations should generally be administered when your pet is a kitten, but if you have an adult cat that has never been vaccinated be sure to speak to your vet to get your cat’s vaccinations up to date as soon as possible. Do note that vaccinations aren’t always covered under standard pet insurance policies. However, you can purchase additional ‘routine care’ cover, which some providers offer as an optional extra – typically this lets you claim for benefits such as de-sexing, microchipping, vaccinations and more.

Fleas, ticks and worms can cause an urgent vet visit

Fleas are a menace to cats, not only making them uncomfortable but also spreading throughout your entire house if left unattended, and to other pets such as dogs. Ticks, on the other hand, are far more dangerous and can prove fatal if you are unaware your cat has been bitten by one. Make sure you are familiar with the symptoms of tick paralysis and contact your vet immediately if you believe your cat may have been bitten.

Next, how often should cats be wormed? It depends on their age, but we advocate for regular worming treatments starting when your cat is a kitten to prevent infestation with intestinal and heartworms. Always speak to your vet about the right treatment for your cat and keep on top of treatments with a routine care checklist.

The good news is that vets and pet stores have comprehensive flea, tick and worm treatments that can be purchased over the counter and administered by you at home. In addition to this, make sure you search your cat daily for any sign of ticks and seek immediate veterinary advice as needed.

Much like vaccinations, the purchase of treatment for fleas, ticks and worms isn’t always covered under standard pet insurance policies.

Urinary tract problems are serious business for cats

You might be wondering “do cats get urinary tract problems?” and the answer is yes, they absolutely can. There is a range of conditions that affect the lower urinary tract in cats. This common issue in felines has a number of obvious symptoms, such as the frequent urge to urinate, pain when urinating, or the inability to pass more than a small about of liquid each time.

Obesity can be a contributing factor to urinary tract problems, so make sure you are conscious of your cat’s weight. Just like pet insurance can help reduce the stress and cost of expensive vet visits for injuries and illnesses, monitoring your cat’s wellbeing, stress levels and weight can decrease the likelihood of your cat falling victim to one of these common ailments.

Diet or genetics: How can you tell if your cat has diabetes?

Diabetes is often cited as one of the most common diseases for pets, especially obese cats.

The good news is that if you spot the warning signs early enough and take your cat promptly to the vet for appropriate treatment you can help your cat back onto the path of healthy living – and save yourself a number of visits to the vet! Look for symptoms such as:

  • higher levels of thirst
  • excessive urination
  • hunger
  • weight loss
  • lower activity levels or weakness
  • vomiting
  • depression

If you sense your cat may be displaying signs of diabetes, get them to the vet as soon as possible so they can begin treatment. Thankfully there are very effective treatments available for diabetic cats these days.

These are some common reasons why cats have to visit the vet, but it’s not an exhaustive list. Make sure you always monitor the health of your cat and contact your vet if you feel they may be suffering from an illness or injury.

You can’t always avoid a trip to the vet for your cat, but you can help to protect your hip pocket against huge bills with the right pet insurance policy.

Image of Dr Rosemary Elliot

Dr Rosemary Elliot 

Dr Rosemary studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney after having established her career as a clinical psychologist, and has qualifications of BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), MPsych (Clin), BA (Hons) as well as previously establishing her career as a clinical psychologist. Her experiences during veterinary training fostered an ambition to focus directly on animal welfare and ethics, with a particular interest in animal sentience and the human-animal bond. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Rosemary combines her psychology background and veterinary skills to contribute to and promote animal welfare, and regularly contributes quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance's Pet Care blog.