Let’s face it: a visit to the doctor is stressful on us. Turn that doctor’s visit into a vet visit, then add the complication of getting your cat in their carrier. Mix in the added stress of other animals at a veterinary office. You have a recipe for one anxious time.
Unfortunately, that recipe is also an excuse that many people use to skip that annual vet visit for their cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association survey of 50,000 households showed that 44.9% didn’t take their cats to the vet within a one-year period- more than double the rate of dogs that miss the annual vet visit. One of the top reasons for the missed exam? The difficulty in transporting cats.
From selecting a cat-friendly veterinarian to helping your cat feel more comfortable in her carrier, there are many ways to help make veterinary visits more enjoyable. Here are 10 easy ways you can lessen the stress of your cat’s next vet visit:
Choosing Your Vet
You’ll find a growing number of cat-only veterinarians. These practices mean your vet will be a specialist in your cat’s unique needs, and your cat won’t experience the added stress caused by barking dogs in the office. No feline practitioner in your area? Look for veterinary offices with separate dog and cat entrances and waiting rooms.
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Make Off-Peak Appointments
Veterinary appointments at off-peak times mean your cat’s waiting time will be shorter. Ask your vet’s office for times when traffic is lightest.
Bring Samples from Home
Ask your veterinarian if you can assist by bringing stool and/or urine samples to your appointment. Many vets will provide a particular litter you can use in a clean litterbox to obtain a urine sample, far less stressful than leaving your cat at the vet’s office to obtain a sample.
Make Your Carrier Attractive
Create positive associations with the carrier by giving your cat treats near the carrier. This will encourage her to accept the presence of the carrier. After she’ll take a cat treat near the carrier, consider treating her inside the carrier. Also consider storing your cat’s favorite toys inside the open carrier.
Look at Alternative Carriers
If your cat doesn’t adjust to her hard-sided carrier, you may want to try a soft-sided carrier. Many are top-loading, perfect for cats who don’t like to enter a carrier’s front door.
Don’t Hide the Carrier
If your living space permits, try leaving the carrier out in plain sight when not in use. The more your cat sees the carrier as part of her usual environment, the less scary it will be.
The Scent of Security
Cats are definitely influenced by smells, and you can provide a calm atmosphere by spraying the carrier with synthetic pheromones. These compounds evoke a feeling of safety as they mimic the scent of a mother cat; they are available as sprays or towelettes.
Practice Carrier Runs
It’s a good idea to start using the carrier before you actually need to transport your cat to the vet. Practice by getting her into the carrier; once inside, give her a tasty treat and release her. When this can be done successfully, carry her to another room before releasing her, eventually taking your cat to the car and back in the house.
Add a Mat
Putting a small mat on the floor of the carrier makes a more inviting tactile surface for your cat to grip. When you reach the vet’s office, remove the mat and cat from the carrier together, placing both on the exam table. The fabric, preferably with rubber backing, helps make a metal exam table more cat-friendly by giving your cat a surface to grip.
Keep the Carrier Clean
During the vet visit, cats are naturally prone to release stress hormones. After the carrier has been to the vet’s office, you’ll want to wash out the carrier with soap and water and launder the mat after each visit.
Finally, be sure to remain calm yourself. Our cats are extremely tuned into our own moods. Projecting the veterinarian’s office as a friendly, safe place to visit will help your cat realize that all’s well, and she’ll soon be returning home.
Paris Permenter and John Bigley are a husband-wife team of professional writers and the publishers of DogTipper.com. Paris and John have authored 32 pet and travel books ranging from Texas with Dogs (Open Road Guides) to The Healthy Hound Cookbook (Adams Media). Paris and John share their lives with their mixed breed dogs Irie and Tiki and four cats, Linus, Inca, Coco, and Lucky.