Many cat owners have had negative experiences when taking their beloved furry feline to the veterinarian. It’s no secret cats hate being put in unfamiliar situations so it is no surprise that visiting the vet clinic, even for a routine check-up, can be problematic. Fortunately, with some simple preparation and reassurance you will be able to take even the most scared cat to the vet with minimal stress.
What Causes the Stress?
Before we look at how you can make each vet visit a calm and stress-free experience, it is important to first understand why your cat may find the situation stressful. When you visit the vet, your cat is often put through a series of unfamiliar scenarios before they even reach the veterinary clinic.
Some key reasons your cat may be anxious include:
Use a Suitable Carrier that Your Cat is Familiar With
One major source of stress for both cat and owner is getting the cat in their carrier. If the day starts with a chase around the house and a forcible capture, there is very little chance the vet visit will be a positive one. By taking time to get your cat comfortable with their carrier, you are eliminating one stressful part of the trip. Take out and get your cat’s carrier into their environment a few days prior to the trip to the veterinarian. If practical and if it fits in with your home decor, consider leaving your cat’s carrier out in their environment on a daily basis, allowing them to explore, sleep, play, and maybe even eat a treat in it. This way they won’t associate the carrier just with the trips to the veterinary clinic.
As pet carriers tend to be quite bulky and awkward to carry, another option may be to try a cat backpack. This allows you to carry your cat with ease while keeping your hands free to open doors and fill out paperwork. It also means your cat is kept far from the ground and far from the other animals at the vet clinic.
Allow Your Cat Time in the Car
Getting your cat used to your carrier at a young age is recommended, but if you’re dealing with an adult pet, you should take the process very slowly. If going to the vet clinic involves driving, it is best to get your cat used to being in the car prior to the visit. Start by putting your cat in your carrier and simply carrying him or her around the house. Then, you can put your cat in the carrier in the car (without going anywhere) for a few minutes. Eventually, you can start taking short car trips with your cat around the neighborhood, going a bit farther each time. Before long, going in the car will no longer cause stress. Taking it step by step in this way allows your cat to get used to the situation without feeling afraid or overwhelmed. Then when the time comes to go to the vet, they will know that going in the car is nothing to worry about.
Minimize Waiting Time
A veterinary waiting area will be full of strange sounds and smells and this can be a nightmare for cats – cats are territorial and love their own space so imagine their dread when they are suddenly in an unknown room with various animals, lots of strangers and no way to escape.
This situation can be very stressful, particularly when the cat carrier is placed on the ground in close proximity to other animals. It’s something you may not have even thought about before but placing the carrier on the floor as dogs pass by on leads is very scary and intimidating for your cat. If you are in the waiting area, choose a quiet spot and have the carrier on your lap, continue to reassure your cat in a calm voice to let them know everything is ok. Perhaps covering the cat carrier with a lightweight sheet or towel might help eliminate stress as it will help your cat avoid contact with other animals.
Offer Reassurance and Praise
It’s important to reassure your cat throughout the entire journey and veterinary visit. If your cat likes treats, offer treats at key points such as; when they go into the carrier, at the end of the car journey and in the waiting room.
When it is time to be seen by the vet, let the vet know how your cat generally acts during these visits. This allows the vet to decide the best route to take when it comes to physically handling your cat. When the vet or vet tech handles your cat, talk softly so your furry feline knows you are still there and everything is ok.
While there are many things that we within the profession are doing to ensure your furry friend a safe and stress-free visit, there are also some simple things you can be doing with your pets at home, both on a regular basis and in advance of a veterinary visit, to help ensure as peaceful an experience as possible… for everyone involved.