In this post we help youReduce the risk of freaking out your cat
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 44.9% of cat owners did not take their cat to the vet in 2011 (this is up from 2006, when only 36.3% of cat owners polled didn’t make a vet visit). As the AVMA notes, this is despite the fact 75% of cat owners understood that "routine check-ups and preventive care are either very or somewhat important."
One reason that cat owners avoid the vet is the amount of stress involved. Cats hate everything about going to vet: visiting a strange place, meeting new people, smelling strange cats. Veterinarians like Dr. Mary Mehler, a veterinary associate at Wellsboro Small Animal Hospital in Middlebury Center, PA, have implemented a number of cat-friendly practices that not only make cats feel more comfortable, but calm their human guardians as well. We talked to her about ways to make it easy to get your cat to the vet.
1) Let Your Cat Avoid the Waiting Room
"Being cat friendly means that you’re working with the cat instead of against the cat," Dr. Mehler told us. "You’re just trying to keep a positive experience for the cat so that they don’t learn that it’s a bad thing to visit the veterinarian." Creating a positive experience for your cat is a lot easier than you might think.
Dr. Mehler starts things off by avoiding the waiting room altogether. "There’s a lot going on out there. People, dogs, phones ringing. It’s a very busy area." No matter what, however, you’re going to have to take your cat out of their element. "One of the reasons things get so stressful is that your cat is just scared. That’s typically why they act out."
Once cats get to the examination room, vets and pet parents want to let the cat "acclimate to the odors and sounds in a non-threatening environment. The carrier should be placed on the floor and opened once in the room so the cat can explore if it so chooses."
2) Acquaint Your Cat With Their Carrier
A lot of responsibility for keeping the cat calm falls on the pet parent, and the chief concern for Dr. Mehler is the carrier. Dr. Mehler suggests "leaving the carrier out in the house and, starting from a very young age, leave it open, leave toys in there that the cat likes, put treats in there, just let the cat get used to that so that the carrier itself isn’t a strange place."
If a cat is comfortable with their carrier, it won’t be a struggle to convince them to climb in there when it comes time for a vet visit. If they only associate the carrier with a scary and stressful experience, it will only create more scary and stressful experiences in the future. Same goes for the car ride over to the vet. Dr. Mehler suggests covering the carrier with a warm cloth so that your cat can’t see "everything flying by them out through the window."
3) Don’t Make Your Vet The Villain
Once cats get to the vet’s office, they often don’t want to come out of their carriers. At that point, many pet parents give up and let the vet deal with coaxing (or dragging) a terrified cat out of their carrier. The best way to combat that is a carrier that you can take apart. A good and cheap hard plastic carrier is perfect for vet visits, as they often feature removable tops. A removable top also means that the cat doesn’t necessarily have to leave the safety of the carrier. Dr. Mehler told us that she "tries to examine the cats in the carrier if I can." That way, neither you nor the veterinarian has to take your cat out of its comfort zone.
For more information on the best carrier for your cat, check out this video from the CATalyst Council:
Still Having Problems?
If you’re having trouble with getting your cat to the vet, you should talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible about a course of action. If the above tactics don’t work and your cat is still feeling stressed, your vet may recommend a hormone spray like Feliway or stress-reducing medications.
Remember, your vet wants to help you get the best care for your cat with the least stress possible. Work with your vet to come up with a plan to get your cat to their office. "I believe we have a responsibility to our patients to provide them with the care they deserve," Dr. Mehler told us, "which can only be achieved if we are able to examine them and treat them, every single one of them!"
We love to hear stories about cats, and we want to hear your stories about getting your cat to the vet. When was the last time it happened? Did it go well? How did your veterinarian respond to your cat’s behavior? Give us a shout in the comments below.