Cat Friendly Information
Getting your cat to the vet -- without the stress!
If you’ve already been through the experience of taking your cat to the vet clinic, you probably know that most cats don’t enjoy traveling the way that most dogs do. For some, just getting into the carrier before leaving the house can be a frightening trial involving a lot of frantic running around, flying fur, and frustration. The drive to the clinic can expose you to the true power of your cat’s little lungs and vocal cords. But with the right approach and an understanding of your kitty’s point of view, the trip to see us can be downright trauma-free. And that’s important, because getting regular health checks and seeing the doctor when something isn’t right are essential to your cat’s health and well being. Prepare in advance for the inevitable visit to the clinic by following the steps outlined here, and you and your cat may find that going to the doctor isn’t really that scary after all!
First, turn the carrier into your kitty’s private oasis. Most of us tend to keep the carrier stored away in a closet or the garage, where our cats have little or no exposure to it except when they’re about to go for a scary car ride and maybe get poked by a vaccination-wielding veterinarian! So the simple act of getting into the carrier is pretty stressful for most cats. Bringing the carrier into the living space and sprucing it up with some comfy bedding and perhaps a small toy or two can pique your cat’s interest. Place it in an area where your cat likes to spend time and might enjoy a cozy spot for a cat nap. Encourage her to investigate this little getaway by giving favorite treats right outside the carrier, eventually moving treats inside the carrier to coax kitty to follow. Once she’s used to the carrier and will go inside willingly, practice moving it around every once in a while. At first, gently close the door while the cat is inside, lift the carrier, then put it back down and open the door. If your cat is ok with this little exercise, you might carry her several feet in it, then put the carrier right back in its usual spot and open the door again. These steps will make a world of difference in your kitty’s comfort level -- and your stress level -- when it comes time to travel.
If your cat has had previous unhappy experiences with the carrier and refuses to go near it, you may need to invest in a new one that looks and smells completely different to reduce the association between bad memories and the carrier. Many cats also respond well to a pheromone spray, such as Feliway, which can help reduce anxiety and stimulate feelings of calm and happiness. Just a light spray on the bedding inside the carrier or on the outside of it can provide a lot of comfort, especially during the car ride to the vet.
For kitties who get very upset at the vet hospital, a veterinary team that understands cats will do your little furry one a world of good, so make sure to look for a cat-friendly or feline-only practice. Gentle, calm handling and a quiet environment help your cat to feel less threatened by the unfamiliar environment and people. Simply by understanding a cat’s body language and responding to each individual cat based on that communication, a veterinarian or technician can help put your kitty at ease. Most cats actually end up doing just fine once they’re at the clinic, as long as they are handled and comforted appropriately. There are some cats, though, that are just too upset to respond to even the gentlest handling, and they are so nervous and scared that they become extremely difficult to handle. Trying to push a kitty in this state to accept handling and restraint by strangers generally only makes the situation worse for that cat -- he may become progressively more stressed and aggressive with each visit. In these cases, mild to moderate sedation is often the kindest option, allowing the medical team to complete a thorough exam and any necessary diagnostics or treatments without exacerbating your cat’s fear and anxiety or risking injury to the kitty or the team. In most cases, a cat-friendly veterinary team can keep your cat calm enough for his exam without any medication, but it’s just as important to recognize those cases when mild sedation is in the cat’s best interest.