Tips for a Stress-Free Trip to the Vet
According to a recent study, cats go to the vet 5 times less often than dogs do, even though there are 10 million more pet cats than dogs nationally. Two-thirds of cat parents admit that they only take their cat to the vet when it’s ill or injured because putting their cat in a carrier or in the car is a significant cause of stress for both the cat and the owner. Therefore, their cats do not receive health exams or preventative care, which could help to catch disease processes early on, or prevent them from beginning in the first place. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your cat’s stress before and during a visit to the vet so that she can receive the important health care that she deserves.
Get your cat accustomed to head-to-tail exams at home. Even though you may not know what you’re looking for, getting your cat used to having her body handled will help significantly next time she is at the vet. Get your cat used to having her ears, legs, feet, face, tail and body touched by gently petting those areas (if your cat will allow) on a regular basis.
Ensure that you have the right size and type of carrier. Cats like to feel safe, but need space to be comfortable. Ensure that your carrier is large enough so that you cat can stand up and turn around, but not so large as to have her feel exposed. Top loading carriers, or those that can be efficiently taken apart, allow for an easier extraction when it’s time for your cat to come out for her exam. It’s preferable to be able to lift the top of the carrier off than to have to awkwardly pull your cat out of the tiny front door.
Help your cat become used to her carrier. Many pet owners know the look of terror that crosses their cat’s face when she sees the ‘crate of doom’ pulled out from the basement, which is usually followed by a lengthy period of hiding under the bed. Help your cat become used to her carrier by having it accessible in the house at all times. Give your cat treats in her carrier, make sure it’s lined with a comfortable towel or bed that smells like home, and perhaps even feed your cat in her carrier. Having your cat become comfortable with the carrier will significantly reduce her stress when it’s time to travel in it. Visit the Indoor Cat Initiative for tips on Free Access Crate Training https://indoorpet.osu.edu//cats/basicneeds/fact.
Help your cat become used to rides in the vehicle. For most cats, the only time they are put in their carrier or in the car is to go to the vet. Try taking your car for short car rides to other locations, or for quick visits to the vet for something easy, like getting weighed, or just to get a few treats. When in the car, make sure the radio volume is down, the windows are rolled up, and the temperature is comfortable for your cat.
Book your vet appointment at a less busy time. Many cats become stressed during long waits at the vet office where they may be surrounded by barking dogs, squawking birds, or excited children. Try booking your cat’s appointment at a time that is likely to be less busy. For example, the first appointment in the morning or right after lunch will generally mean that the vet is running on time and there will be no wait. You may wish to ask the staff if there are times of the day that are less busy than others, when you can expect there to be fewer animals/families in the waiting area.
Find a vet that your cat is comfortable with. Just like human doctors, each veterinarian will be different in how they approach and deal with their patients. Look for a veterinarian that handles your cat calmly and gently, and who your cat seems to feel comfortable with. Did you know that our vets at Royal Oak Pet Clinic have specific training in low-stress handling and examination techniques for cats?
Create a refuge at home. We sometimes forget how heavily our cats rely on their sense of smell for everyday matters. Cats recognize each other by smell, so your cat may be treated like an outsider by her housemates after she returns home because she smells like the vet office. Ensure she has a safe place to rest after coming home where she can avoid conflict until her normal scent returns.
Ask the vet about supplements to help reduce your pet’s anxiety. There are a number of over the counter products available that can be used to reduce your cat’s anxiety during stressful events. Your veterinarian can provide you with a list of safe and recommended products that will help keep your cat feeling calm and reduce her level of stress during her vet visit.