Written by Dr. Christine Davis
As much as we love our feline patients, the feeling isn’t always mutual. A visit to the veterinarian’s office can be anxiety-provoking. Starting with the carrier, then the car ride, and finally the new experiences that occur in the hospital, leaves many cats understandably nervous. Here are a few tips to help turn your “scaredy cat” into a seasoned traveler.
Some cat parents suspect that their kitty has ESP when it comes to their carrier. How else can you explain the fact that Fluffy is well-hidden before the carrier even makes an appearance? It helps to make the carrier a part of your kitty’s normal environment whenever possible. This means keeping it out, lining it with a comfortable towel or blanket, adding a beloved toy, and even the occasional treat. There are also calming pheromone sprays and wipes for cats that can be applied several hours in advance to calm their nerves. We carry these products at our hospital and they can be purchased at any time.
On the day of your vet visit, it is best to skip the meal prior to the appointment to avoid stomach upset. If Fluffy won’t walk into the carrier by himself when encouraged with a treat, it may be easier to gently lower him in backwards with the carrier in a vertical position. A carrier should always be used in the car for the safety of both cat and driver. When possible, strap the carrier in with the seat belt to avoid jostling the carrier in traffic. It is helpful to bring a fresh towel and cleaning supplies along in case of an unfortunate “accident”. We are always happy to freshen Fluffy and the carrier upon arrival if there is one.
If your cat is especially nervous in the waiting room, call ahead and request that your kitty be put in an exam room upon arrival; sometimes this may mean waiting in the car for a few minutes. Otherwise, head to our cat-only waiting area and try to keep the carrier off of the floor with your kitty’s eye line on you and not another animals. Speak calmly and gently to the kitty.
After entering the exam room, put the carrier on the floor and open the door. Let your cat explore at will. Don’t worry if he jumps up high or finds a hiding place; we have seen it all! Continue talking to your kitty calmly. During the exam, try to remain in his eye line and ask the veterinarian if you can touch and pet him. By now, many cats are quite relaxed and will be purring and enjoying the attention of our admiring staff. If you have any tips for us on how your cat likes to be petted, we are all ears. We want your kitty to feel safe and comfortable.
A trip to the vet may never be the highlight of your cat’s day, but by following these tips we hope that the experience will be a bit more “purr-fect”.