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First-time cat owners: Tips for taking your cat to the vet

Congratulations—you’re now a cat parent! The bond between you and your pet can be among the most rewarding in life. And such gifts rarely come without responsibility.

While cats have a reputation for being independent and less needful than dogs, they do require much of the same care as their canine counterparts. Immunizations, spay/neuter procedures, dental care, proper diet, grooming, and regular checkups are all part of responsible cat care.

If this seems daunting, don’t panic. Your veterinarian is there to help you and your pet get through the experience with as few snags as possible. Still, the experience can be stressful, especially for your pet, so we’d like to offer a few tips on what to expect during your cat’s first visit to the vet, and what you can do to prepare for it.

Preparation For Your Cat’s First Vet Visit

Even the calmest cat can become stressed by a trip to the vet--carriers, car trips, loud noises, unfamiliar smells, can all boost a cat’s stress level. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make the experience less challenging for you, your cat, and the vet staff.

Assemble all your pet’s paperwork. Whether your cat was adopted or purchased, there will be paperwork. Your vet will need to review your animal’s health records, including vaccination history, to develop a comprehensive care plan.

Get your cat accustomed to being handled. One of the first things your vet will do is to perform a routine physical exam of your pet. That’s a fair amount of handling for any animal, and the more accustomed your pet is to being touched and picked up, the more likely it is to tolerate being handled by the vet and vet staff.

Acclimate your cat to the carrier. Being placed in a carrier can be stressful for your cat. To ease the transition, leave the carrier out and open in a place your cat can thoroughly examine it a few days before the visit. Cats are naturally curious, and your pet will likely want to sniff and check out this strange object. The more familiar your cat is with the carrier, the less stressed it will be being placed inside it. Outfitting the carrier with one of your pet’s favorite blankets can also help reduce anxiety.

Take a practice car ride. If your cat is jittery about car trips or has never ridden in a car, take a practice run with your cat safely in the carrier. Take few loops around the block then return home and let your pet out of the carrier. Acclimating your cat to travel can greatly reduce stress. And a calm cat is far easier for you and your vet to handle.

Editor’s Note: Try these pet stress relief tips to help calm your new cat during times of high anxiety.

Questions To Ask During Your Cat’s Vet Appointment

The initial vet visit is a time for sharing information. A vet will commonly ask you about your cat’s health history, vaccination records, and home environment (so have your pet’s paperwork with you). Your responses help the vet develop a complete picture of your pet’s health, so be complete and honest in your answers. Establishing a baseline normal for your cat or kitten also helps to highlight anything unusual or out of character (such as lethargy, irritability, or loss of appetite) that could be symptomatic of a health problem that may rise in the future.

The initial visit is also the time for you to ask your vet any questions you may have about cat care. Don’t be shy—there are no stupid questions. Your vet possesses a wealth of information and can recommend safe and effective products or warn you away from those that might be ineffective or harmful. The relationship you establish with your vet will help assure that your cat receives the best possible care.

Here are 10 questions to ask on your kitten’s first trip to the vet:

1. What does the wellness exam include?

2. What basic information can the vet share? (e.g. age, breed, congenital and heredity conditions, etc.)

3. What vaccinations are necessary, and what is the schedule for their administration?

4. What is the ideal age to spay/neuter your cat?

5. What types of preventative—flea, heartworm, etc.—should you use, how and when should you administer them?

6. How should you care for your cat’s dental health?

7. What is the best diet for your cat?

8. When and how should you begin litter box training?

9. What type of cat litter and how many litter boxes should you provide?

10. What is the best way to groom your cat?

What to Expect During The Office Visit

When you arrive at the vet, you’ll typically be asked to check in at the reception desk. Some vets provide separate waiting areas for cat and dog owners, which can help reduce stress for cats not accustomed to being around dogs. Keep your cat in its carrier until you reach the exam room.

During an initial visit, your vet will perform a basic physical exam of your animal—checking eyes, ears, mouth, joint flexibility, and weight. The vet will also palpate the cat’s belly and abdomen to check for any masses or soreness. Depending on your pet’s vaccination history (which can be easily stored in your Figo Pet Cloud), the vet may administer inoculations. Feel free to ask about the clinical importance of any of these procedures and vaccines.

Following the appointment, office staff will typically review each item of your bill with you—including exam costs, any vaccinations, x-rays, or other procedures. Discuss the advantages of cat insurance with your vet to manage the financial responsibilities of caring for your cat in the event of a serious illness or injury.

We hope these tips will help you and your pet have a stress-free vet visit!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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