More Meow, Less Ow: Preparing Your Cat for Vet Visits
For many cats, heading to the vet’s office is a stressful ordeal. From the moment the carrier is pulled out, they are on high alert, and things can go downhill from there. By extension, this can make vet visits unpleasant for owners too. Suddenly, their beloved pet is a yowling, scratching catamount, and getting them into the carrier is a drawn-out battle. Even when owners know that going to the vet is in their pet’s best interest, they may avoid or delay, because the initial experience is so unpleasant for both parties. How can you make this easier on your cat? Below are a few suggestions that. may be helpful.
Have the right equipment
A good travel experience for a cat starts with having the appropriate carrier. Most pet stores carry a variety of hard and soft carriers, and many of these can be excellent options. Ensure that your cat is able to turn around in the carrier, and that an adult cat isn’t squeezed into a container meant for a kitten.
It’s also important to have enough carriers for all pets. Even cats that enjoy each other’s company can be stressed if they don’t have an escape option. It’s never ideal to bring two adult cats in the same carrier, even if they’re the best of friends at other times.
The carrier should be made as comfortable as possible. Try adding a soft towel or blanket to the bottom. This has the added benefit of being absorbent if there are any accidents. You can also drape a towel over the front of the carrier to block the view. This carrier is oo small for cat to turn around
Excessive new visual stimuli can be stressful,
and many cats appreciate having their own private den.
Familiarize your cat with the carrier
Rather than only bringing the carrier out for the yearly hike to the vet, try including it as part of the normal household setup. Instead of being an unfamiliar cage, the carrier can be something your pet sees and experiences every day.
The carrier should also be associated with positive stimuli. You can try feeding your pet in its carrier, or only offering special treats when they are inside of it. Many kitties enjoy being in enclosed spaces (Remember how much they loved that cardboard box you brought home!), and they may even choose their carrier as a preferred resting place.
Make travel part of life
Similar to the carrier, car rides should not be something that only happens on the way to the vet. Even cats that seem to loathe being in the car can often be gradually desensitized to the process. Try starting off with just closing your cat in its carrier for a few minutes. Graduate to placing the carrier in the car briefly, and then to short car rides (Try starting with as few as five minutes). If possible, try to bring your pet along on short car trips at least every week or so. Of course, don’t bring kitty along if he or she would be left alone in a hot car while you’re in the store! Change the experience by changing the destination.
Consider spacing visits out for multiple cats
While it can be convenient for owners to bring all of their pets to the vet’s office at once, this isn’t desirable from a cat’s point of view. In a multi-cat household, the process of going to the vet can start with chasing down each individual cat. By the time the last pet is rounded up, everyone is riled up. And one cat vocalizing during the car ride can make all the other feline passengers more nervous.
If scheduling multiple visits is challenging, ask about our commuter drop off policy. If you don’t have time to be present for a late morning or afternoon exam, you can drop your pet off in the morning, and pick him or her up at the end of the day.
Consider feline pheromones
There are several products on the market designed specifically to calm our feline friends. Cats naturally produce a chemical called “feline facial pheromone,” which they use to mark familiar places and people. One such product is called Feliway, which is a synthetic version of that pheromone. It comes in diffusers, sprays, and wipes. Some cats have a significant reduction in travel stress if their carrier or blanket is sprayed with Feliway prior to use.
Ask about medications for specific concerns
For some cats, motion sickness is the most uncomfortable part of traveling to the vet. If your cat consistently vomits in the car, or is often drooling by the time you get to your destination, ask your veterinarian about medical options. You may be able to give an anti-nausea medication prior to trips, and eliminate one stressor for them.
ACMP vets can guide you through medical options
Consider pre-visit sedation for anxious pets
Even with all of these changes, there are some pets that experience a high level of anxiety before and during vet visits. For these cats, pre-visit sedation may make the event much more tolerable. Ask your vet about this during or before your next visit. There are several options, and you may need to try a few to find which one works best for your cat.
Remember, there is no magic pill to make travel perfect! However, a combination of behavioral and pharmaceutical modifications can help make vet visits a smoother experience for both you and your cat.
Our practice implements fear free strategies for making your cat’s visit as pleasant as possible for you cat.
Becker, M. (2015). Why Fear-Free Veterinary Visits Are the Most Important Transformation to Hit Veterinary Practice in 50 Years. Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from www.vin.com.