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One of the best ways to keep your cat healthy is by ensuring they receive all of the recommended vaccinations. You should speak with your veterinarian to learn which vaccinations are recommended for your cat.

The following information can help you understand the importance of vaccination and the role it plays in protecting your cat and your household. View our full brochure on Vaccinations for Your Cat for more information.

Why Does My Cat Need to Be Vaccinated?

  • Vaccines help to protect against specific infectious diseases caused by some viruses and bacteria.
  • The use of vaccines has prevented death and disease in millions of cats and it is important to continue this practice to ensure cats are protected throughout their lives.
  • Vaccines protect people from disease, such as rabies, that can be transmitted from cats.
  • The vaccines your cat needs will depend on his/her health status, age, lifestyle, and what diseases are common in your area.
  • Even cats living totally indoors require regular vaccination as they may be exposed to diseases in many circumstances (such as travel or boarding, interaction with other cats, the addition of a new cat to the home, and even viruses carried on your clothing).
  • Your veterinarian is the best person to evaluate your cat’s individual needs in order to discuss which vaccines are necessary and how often they should be given to provide the best protection for your cat.

Why Does My Kitten Need a Series of More Than One Vaccine?

  • During the first few times kittens nurse they receive antibodies from their mother’s milk that will help protect them again infectious diseases.
  • The antibody levels decline before the kitten has developed their own immunity which may leave them susceptible to disease.
  • The rate of decline is different for every kitten so a series of vaccinations is given to help protect as many kittens as possible that may become susceptible to disease during this vulnerable time.

How Often Does My Cat Need to Be Re-Vaccinated?

Your veterinarian will be able to customize a vaccination schedule for your individual cat that includes such factors as:

  • Health status
  • Your cat’s age and lifestyle
  • How likely your cat is to be exposed to a specific disease
  • Licensing regulations in the area where you live or travel


This is why re-vaccination intervals may vary, both from cat to cat, home to home, and with different diseases. Your veterinarian will be able to customize a vaccination schedule for your cat.

What are the Risks of Vaccination?

  • Following vaccination your cat may experience mild and short-lived reactions (malaise), such as poor appetite, lethargy, and fever that resolve without treatment.
  • Rarely, more serious allergic reactions occur and may include vomiting, diarrhea, facial swelling, or difficulty breathing.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about potential risks and about any symptoms that persist for more than a day or two.

Routine Veterinary Care

catcheckup-infographicsYour cat needs preventive care examinations or check-ups at least once a year and more often for senior cats and those with chronic conditions.

These visits are important to your cat’s specific healthcare plan. Your veterinarian will discuss and assess topics such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Environmental enrichment or physical and social surroundings
  • Disease and parasite prevention
  • Behavior

Why Are Preventive Care Check-ups So Important?

  • During the check-up, veterinarians can often detect conditions that may affect your cat’s health long before they become noticeable so they can be managed or cured before they become painful or more costly.
  • Cats age more rapidly than we do, so preventive care check-ups are a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • As a member of the family, your cat deserves the best possible care. Together, you and your veterinarian can best decide how to accomplish that by meeting at least once a year to talk about your cat and any changes that have taken place in their life.
  • With the information you bring and a good physical check-up, a plan will be created to meet the needs of your cat and the family.
  • You are an important member of your cat’s health care team. You can be helpful in helping your cat live a happy and healthy quality of life.


What Your Veterinarian Looks For?

Are you curious about what’s going on during your cat’s yearly check-up? It may seem like your veterinarian is just petting your cat, but she is examining your cat’s entire health and lifestyle during the checkup.

Don’t have a veterinarian? Find a feline practitioner in your area.

First Year of Life

catcare-kittenfirstyearAdding a kitten (or 2 kittens) to your family is one of the most rewarding experiences. Two kittens can keep one another company, play together, and can share a long life together as best friends.

The first year is full of milestones for your kitty, from learning how to play and interact with your family, to growing strong and healthy. It is important to learn to recognize and anticipate your kitten’s natural behaviors while being proactive in your cat’s health care plan. Kickstart your kitten’s lifetime of wellness with proper vaccines, parasite prevention, and safe socialization so you can enjoy many happy years to come.

The First 8-10 Weeks

Whether your kitten was acquired from a shelter or breeder, stray or gifted, there are some basics to make sure you start off on the right “paw:”

  • Ideally, kittens are with their mother and littermates for the first 8-10 weeks of their life. This period of time is called the socialization period. Kittens learn appropriate cat behavior and their experiences in this window of time help to shape life-long interactions with their environment.
  • At 8-10 weeks old, a kitten is ready to step out into the world and explore! No longer dependent on her mother and littermates for life lessons and entertainment, kittens show independence and an abundance of curiosity.
  • For many cat caregivers, this will be the strongest bonding time you share with your pet.

Prepare Before You Bring Your Kitten Home

Before you bring your kitten home, try to prepare by having the following items ready:

  • Cat carrier, ideally with a front and top loading feature.
  • Clean, low profile litter box with at least two inches of litter (scoopable, unscented litter is preferred).
  • Toys.
  • Separate food and water bowls.
  • Grooming brush or comb.
  • Kitten food, dry and canned.

Find a Veterinarian ASAP

  • A crucial step in preparing for your kitten to come home is to find a veterinarian you trust. We recommend you consider using a designated Cat Friendly Practice®. These veterinary practices have taken specific extra steps to make their practice more comfortable and welcoming for cats and their caregivers.
  • Most kittens are full of energy and excitement. Don’t let their energy distract you from keeping them healthy. Your kitten needs a thorough physical exam and protection from preventable diseases by receiving appropriate vaccines.
  • Ideally, the first visit to the veterinarian should happen within the first week you bring your kitten home. If you have other cats in your household, your new kitten should be tested by your veterinarian before coming into your home.
  • To keep a kitten healthy, vaccines are given as a series at specific intervals beginning around 7-8 weeks old until they have developed sufficient immunity, typically around 16 weeks old. During this time your kitten will become protected against the “core” group of diseases, panleukopenia (feline distemper), calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and rabies.
  • A less obvious point of wellness care is parasite prevention. Unfortunately, many parasites go undetected since young kittens can be infected without showing any clinical signs. To make sure your kitten does not have intestinal parasites, be sure to bring a stool sample to your first veterinary checkup. Your veterinarian will probably also de-worm your kitten at each visit since kittens don’t always shed parasite eggs in their stool.
  • As your kitten grows older, your veterinarian will likely discuss spaying or neutering. This common surgery can be done as early as 7 weeks old, but typically cats are spayed and neutered a little older. Cats that are adopted from a shelter are usually spayed or neutered before going to their new homes.

Your Kitty’s Home — Let the Training Begin

  • When you bring your little one home, she will want to explore!  Take time to show your kitten the litter box, feeding area, and carrier.
  • Training your kitten to be comfortable inside the carrier is an easy way to make her feel safe and secure when going to and from the veterinarian. It will also create a positive relationship with the carrier so you don’t struggle getting her into the carrier.
    • Leave the carrier open in your living area to encourage your kitten go in and out freely.
    • Feed your kitten treats and put toys inside the carrier so she has positive associations with the carrier.
    • Take your kitten for short car trips in the carrier so she isn’t fearful of a car ride.
    • Hide treats  in the carrier to add to the positive experience.

Keep up with Your Kitten’s Activity Level

  • For energetic kittens, mental activity is just as important as physical well-being.
  • Cats are stimulated by a variety of scents, sounds, and tactile experiences.
  • In felines, healthy development includes acting upon their natural predatory behaviors. Young kittens will naturally stalk, pounce, and roll around with toys unprovoked – a part of her inner big cat!
  • It comes as no surprise that a natural favorite for kittens is a furry toy mouse. Avoid stringy or yarn type toys as curious kittens may try to eat their toys instead of play.
  • To discourage biting or scratching, make sure that you avoid using hands and fingers as ways to engage play. Feather pole toys are excellent for playing with your little one while keeping your hands at a safe distance.

Get Comfortable Seeing Your Veterinarian Often

  • Expect to see your veterinarian multiple times in the first year of your cat’s life.
  • Routine veterinary visits are a vital for your cat, helping her to live a long, healthy life.
  • Together, you and your veterinarian will become a united team creating and implementing your growing kitten’s wellness plan.
  • In addition to being a new best friend, you will be the most important member of your cat’s health team.
  • Enjoy all the milestones your kitten’s first year has to offer–the beginning of a happy, healthy lifetime together.

Parasite Prevention

Parasite control is an integral part of your cat’s wellness program and year-round preventive care is essential. Parasites affect your cat’s health and some, referred to as “zoonotic parasites,” are transmissible to people as well.

For example, flea infestation prevention for your cat can protect the entire family from “cat scratch disease,” caused by the Bartonella bacteria, which is carried by fleas. Another important zoonotic parasite to be aware of is roundworm, which can cause vision impairment and blindness in people. An annual control plan for both external and internal parasites not only protects your cat, but you and your family members as well.

It’s important to note that even indoor cats need parasite prevention since there are many ways parasites can enter your home, such as via insects.

Types of Parasites

Parasites fall into two general categories, internal and external. Some of the most common types of parasites are fleas, mites, ticks, roundworms, tapeworms, and heartworms.

What You Need to Know

  • The type of parasites that are most important to focus on for your cat will depend on your cat’s age, lifestyle, seasonality, and where you live.
  • It’s important to note that even indoor cats need parasite prevention since there are many ways parasites can enter your home, such as via insects.
  • All kittens require a schedule of parasite treatments since they are at increased risk.
  • Adult cats also require regular treatment based on individual risk factors.
  • Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best approach for your cat based on lifestyle and geographic factors. In many areas, a year-round plan is the best approach for cats of all ages.

Prevention Treatments

Fortunately, there are a variety of safe and effective products on the market that are easy to apply to your cat and many will treat more than one type of parasite. Most parasite treatment and prevention products are applied topically through:

  • Collars
  • Sprays
  • Spot-on formulations

Why Does My Indoor-Only Cat Need Parasite Prevention?

  • Parasites are everywhere and reside quite happily inside and on our treasured cats.
  • The reality is that many cats have very fluid lifestyles—they might spend most of their time indoors, but occasionally sun themselves on the back porch, live with animal housemates who go outdoors, or they go outside when their caregivers vacation at the beach cottage. And while there are true indoor-only house cats, they frequently enjoy killing and consuming bugs. Insects can serve as transport or intermediate hosts for some of the more common intestinal parasites.
  • Anyone who’s been plagued by a buzzing mosquito or housefly knows how easily flying insects can gain access to even the most well-secured house.
  • Heated, humidified homes can also be terrific breeding grounds for fleas, as well as a place of refuge for flea-carrying rodents.
  • Exposure can happen when shoes and other clothing covered in contaminants fresh from the parasite reservoir are worn indoors.
  • All of these instances create an opportunity for parasite exposure in a typical house cat.


  • There is tremendous opportunity to prevent harm to your kitten by getting her dewormed.
  • Kittens are frequently infected by intestinal parasites, and are prone to reinfection, which can occur during nursing and through her environment.
  • To compound matters, kittens often harbor immature forms of parasites, which can escape the effects of treatments and confound diagnostic tests.
  • Intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, can also wreak havoc on your kitten’s organ systems.

Introducing A Cat

Tabby and bombay cat struggling

When you already have cats as part of your family, introducing your newly adopted cat can seem like an overwhelming task. Patience is key–the transition can take several weeks, but by planning ahead you can reduce some stress, allow for an easier transition, and build a positive relationship between your feline companions.

Check out these 4 easy steps to help introduce your new cat into your household!

Step One – The First Few Days

  • You should isolate your new cat in a separate room with his own food, water, litter box, bedding, and toys.
  • Bring familiar items from the adoption location into the separate room in order to make this room smell comforting and “homey” to your new kitty.
  • If there are other cats in your home, this first step allows both cats to first get used to the scent and sounds of the other cat without risk of confrontation.
  • Be sure to spend a lot of time with each cat or group of cats individually.
  • Keep his cat carrier open in the room as well so your cat has a place to hide and can become familiar with the carrier for future veterinary visits. When you allow your cat to become familiar with his carrier, it can help reduce the stress and difficulty of getting your cat into the carrier when you need to transport them to the veterinarian’s office or on a trip.

Step Two

  • Once all your cats in the home seem relaxed, gradually start to move the food dishes closer to the door that separates them. If any stress is noted, go back to the step where they were comfortable and work more slowly.
  • You can also use a toy for them to play with under the door when they are calm and hopefully curious.
  • If your cats are calm, take a cloth/blanket to wipe one cat and then put that cloth in the room with the other cats. Do the same for new and existing cats, so that the others can smell the cat in their area.
  • If this is comfortable to all cats, you can also mix the scents on one cloth, wiping first one cat, then the other.
  • Remember to reward all calm behaviors with treats and praise in a soft voice.
  • When your cats are comfortable with the steps above, it is time to try a brief and safe interaction. This can be done by opening the crack of the door an inch so that both cats are safe, but can start to see each other.
  • If one cat hisses or tries to attack, close the door, back up the process, and restart more gradually.
  • Sometimes it can be helpful to distract your cats with food.

Step Three

  • When all is going well, place your new cat inside a carrier and allow your other cat(s) to explore by seeing and smelling your new cat more closely in a safe environment.
  • Continue to reward calm behaviors with treats and praise in a soft voice.
  • If your cats are harness and leash trained, this is another option you can try.

Step Four

  • If your cats seem comfortable in this environment, the next step is to try placing them in the same room with direct supervision.
  • Start introductions for brief periods to help make it more likely that these experiences will be positive.
  • Remember to be patient and go back a few steps if necessary, and gradually re-introduce.
  • If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.
  • Once your cats have been successfully acclimated, remember that each cat still needs their own resources, often in different locations, such as food, water, bedding, and litter boxes.

Few Final Pieces of Important Informationallo-rubbing-givin

  • It can still be overwhelming to acclimate a cat into your home even if you do not have other cats.
  • As your new feline companion becomes more comfortable, he will be more likely to explore and test the boundaries.
  • You should always check for potential hazards in your home such as poisonous plants, full-length curtains, fireplaces, breakable objects, etc.
  • The more prepared you are, the smoother the transition can be.

Setting Up for Adoption Success

Below are important suggestions to get you off to a good start with your new kitty whether you have a multi- or single-cat household.

Before Introducing Your New Cat or Kitten

The “3 P’s” Patience, Planning, and Preparation — are critical to the success of introducing a new cat. Sadly, approximately 50% of newly adopted cats are surrendered because of lack of planning or realizing the commitment of adopting a cat. By taking the following steps you can greatly improve the success of this adoption and bond with your new cat:

1. Patience

Patience is critically important when you bring your new cat home. It is necessary both when you choose your new kitten or cat, and when you introduce your new cat to other pets and family members. Both take time and taking the time can make all the difference in having a successful integration into your home.

2. Planning

Planning should start before bringing home your new feline friend. The goal is to ensure that your new cat/kitten, as well as any existing cats, have their needs met.


Part of the planning process is making sure you have all the supplies you’ll need for your new furry friend. Basic supplies include the following:

  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl or dish
  • High quality kitten or cat food
  • Scratching post and/ or scratching pad
  • Litterbox
  • Cat bed
  • Nail trimmer
  • Toys
  • Breakaway collar and identification tag
  • Scoopable litter
  • Cat carrier

Create a Safe Place

Cats are territorial, so if you already have a cat, the space in your home is the territory of your existing cat. That means that she will want to protect it from any new cats. Therefore, it is important in the beginning to create a safe space for each cat in your household.

  • You should plan to confine your newly adopted cat to a room or separate floor that is not the favorite area of any existing cats. It is preferable if this space has a door to prevent visual access to each other.
  • Choose an area for your new cat where you are willing to keep perches, cat beds, litter boxes, food/water, and other resources on a long-term basis in case your cats don’t like each other.
  • Remember that as with people, cats choose their own friends, or social groups. Even if our intentions are good, we must recognize that our cats may not like the company of another cat.
  • Drawing a simplified floor plan of your home can help you identify how to separate your cats.
  • Remember that each cat needs safe places to rest, hide, perch, eat and drink, and to toilet.
  • Scratching is normal behavior and cats also need scratching posts either separate or combined with a cat tree.

3. Preparing

  • Cats are very sensitive to smells, especially unfamiliar smells. They mark their territory with their scent to make it feel safe through cheek rubbing, scratching, and occasionally spraying. Consider using pheromone diffusers in your home to help prevent unwanted spraying, and to keep your cats more comfortable in the environment. Ask your veterinarian where to purchase a diffuser.
  • Last, but absolutely not least, take your new cat to the veterinarian before bringing them into your home.
    • Also make sure any existing cats are updated on their veterinary care. An apparently healthy cat that is adopted can still introduce illnesses to the existing cats!
    • If an existing cat is already mildly ill, your new cat may cause stress that will exacerbate the illness.
    • If you do not have a veterinarian, you can search for an AAFP Member or Cat Friendly Practice® in your area. Cat Friendly Practices have made changes to decrease stress and provide a more calming environment for cats. Their staff have also been trained in feline-friendly handling and understanding cat behavior in order to increase the quality of care for your cat.

You’re Ready to Adopt!

  • Take the introduction process slowly. If you don’t rush the introduction period, there is a great chance of your cats either liking each other or at least “time-sharing,” (moving around the entire home comfortably even if they don’t love each other).
  • What does cat “love” look like exactly? Grooming one another, sleeping in close contact, and any other physical contact.
  • If you have any specific questions regarding adoption, please contact your veterinarian.

1. Shore ER. Returning a recently adopted companion animal: adopters’ reasons for and reactions to the failed adoption experience. J Applied Anim Welfare Sci. 2005;8:187–198.

Lifetime of Care

Gray kitten on person's shoulderAs you make the decision to adopt a cat, it is important to remember that this is a lifelong commitment.

To be the best possible cat caregiver, you really need to have a solid understanding about:

  • How to meet your cat’s environmental needs
  • Feline behaviors
  • Feline health conditions
  • Diseases
  • The critical need for routine preventive veterinary visits

Identifying and securing a veterinarian you trust is paramount. For assistance in finding a veterinarian in your area, use the Find a Veterinarian and Practices locator.

As a new cat owner, my local Cat Friendly Practice (CFP) has been paramount in educating me on how to properly care for my cat. The vet at my CFP led a seminar for new cat owners on feline health and wellness – the information I learned was invaluable. I really appreciate the cat friendly office set-up and feline-only exam room. – James W. – Michigan

Click on the links below for more information on how to give your cat the long, happy, and healthy she deserve.

Adopting A Cat

Congratulations on considering to adopt a new cat or kitten! Bringing a newly adopted cat into your home is very exciting, but it can also be stressful. Our feline veterinarians have created some helpful information and important tips regarding adoption which can help you provide a smooth transition of your new cat into your family.

What Your Veterinarian Looks For During Checkups

Are you curious about goes on during your cat’s yearly checkup? It may look like your veterinarian is just petting your cat. However, they are examining your cat’s health and lifestyle during the checkup. Here’s a little insight on what to expect during a routine checkup. Typically, the examination is divided into four parts:

  1. Questions and Information Gathering
  2. Hands-on Examination
  3. Discussion
  4. Taking and Analyzing Samples

1. Questions and Information Gathering

One of the most important parts of your cat’s annual checkup is when the veterinary staff gathers information from you about your cat. As the caregiver, you have valuable information your veterinarian needs to know so they can properly assess your cat’s health.

These questions are asked by a trained veterinary assistant, a certified veterinary technician, or your veterinarian. Typical questions include:

  • How did your cat come to live with you?
  • What does your cat eat on a daily basis?
  • How much does your cat typically eat each day?
  • Does your cat have any previous health issues?
  • Is your cat having any problems using the litter box?
  • Does your cat cough, sneeze, vomit, or have diarrhea?
  • Has your cat left the state?
  • Have you noticed a change in your cat’s ability to run or jump on things in your home?
  • Is your cat microchipped?
  • Does your cat ever go outside?
  • Do you have any worries or concerns about your cat?
  • Will you be traveling with your cat?
  • Are there other pets in your household?

2. Hands-on Examination

It is important for your veterinarian to spend time looking at your cat and listening for important clues to help determine your cat’s health status.

During the examination, your veterinarian incorporates a thorough evaluation of all of the major organ systems including:

  • Abdomen
  • Muscle tone
  • Coat, fur, and skin
  • Ears and eyes
  • Mouth, gums, and teeth
  • Joints and spine
  • Under the tail

The exam includes weighing your cat. If your cat has been seen at this clinic before, they will compare your cat’s current weight with previous weights. A body condition score is often assigned to indicate if your cat’s weight is appropriate for their age, size, and breed. If your cat is stressed or frightened, the veterinary team might have your cat remain in the bottom part of the carrier and/or under a towel. Then they can weigh your cat at the end of the checkup.

If your veterinarian notices something abnormal or worrisome, they will make a note and discuss this with you later.

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Now is the time for you and your veterinarian to talk in more depth. Your veterinarian should discuss what he or she noticed during the exam and make further recommendations for care.

Cats often hide signs of illness and pain, so it is common for your veterinarian to suggest various laboratory samples be obtained for evaluation. This allows them to determine any problems your cat may be experiencing.

Now is the time for you to ask any questions you may have and ask for advice. Please remember your veterinarian is your partner as well as a medical professional, and wants to help you provide the very best care for your cat.

Don’t be shy to ask for advice on subjects like litter box or behavioral issues, as well as what to expect as your cat ages.

4. Taking and Analyzing Samples

With your consent, samples are obtained by your veterinarian or another member of the veterinary team. If medications are needed, they are often discussed and dispensed at this time. Make sure that you ask for a demonstration on how to administer any medication. Then you can feel confident doing it at home without your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian or a veterinary team member should contact you within 24 – 48 hours, detailing the findings of any laboratory tests. They will also provide you with a recommendation of any next step(s) to help ensure your cat stays as healthy for as long as possible.

Good cat care is a partnership between you and the veterinary team and relies on communication and trust. You should feel comfortable calling the veterinary team with any questions, concerns, or updates on your cat.

Pet Health Insurance

Did you know that 1 in every 3 cats will require unplanned veterinary care each year for conditions such as tooth infections, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, heart disease, etc.? If your cat becomes ill, would you have $500 – $2,000 to pay for this unexpected and unbudgeted veterinary expense?

It is for the unexpected situations—accident and illnesses—that cat health insurance can have the biggest benefit. Ideally, your cat’s veterinary care should be not be based on what financial resources you have available when your cat unexpected becomes ill. Health insurance for your cat can help ensure she receives the care she deserves without any delay.

When considering cat health insurance, it is important to understand that each plan is different. Some plans cover preventive care such as vaccinations, deworming, and flea and tick prevention, but not all include this kind of coverage. Like human health care insurance, pet health insurance will have a monthly premium. However, a small monthly premium can be much more affordable than a large veterinary bill when your cat unexpectedly becomes ill.

Health Insurance for your cat can help protect you from large, unexpected veterinary bills and ensure your cat gets the medical care he needs, when he needs it. – Dr. Apryl Steele, DVM

When selecting a health insurance policy, consider the following questions:

  • Do you need a policy only for unexpected or emergency expenses?
  • Is preventive care and checkup coverage necessary?
  • Does the policy cover accidents, illness, and/or preventive care?
  • Are hereditary conditions covered?
  • How are pre-existing conditions defined? It is possible to submit medical records to most insurance companies to determine what they would consider a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing conditions are ineligible for reimbursement, although some have a time frame at which they are no longer consider pre-existing.
  • Does the policy require you to pay the veterinarian and apply for reimbursement (most policies do)?
  • Can you choose any veterinarian?
  • If the premium changes, what are those changes based upon? Does it increase annually with age?
  • What is the maximum reimbursement amount?
  • Is there a deductible (amount due before policy comes into effect)?
  • What is the percentage of the total bill that is reimbursed? (usually 80% – 90%)
  • What is the average time it takes for reimbursement?
  • What is the policyholder satisfaction rate?


Health insurance for your cat can help protect you from large, unexpected veterinary bills and ensure your cat gets the medical care they need, when they need it. For information on pet health insurance providers, visit: