Cats at the Vet-It Doesn't have to be Scary

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Many people have the thought that cats don’t need to see the veterinarian as often as dogs.  However, cats DO need to see the veterinarian just as often!  Cats and dogs should see the vet at least once a year for preventative care, and older cats and dogs (7 and up) should see the vet at least twice a year.

So why is it that although pet cats outnumber pet dogs in the US, veterinarians see more pet dogs than pet cats?

There are several reasons!

Besides the opening myth that cats don’t need to see the vet (they DO!), cats are often more difficult to get to the vet.  They, and therefore their owners, experience stress and anxiety at the thought of the cat going into the carrier, the ride to the vet, getting the cat out of the carrier, examining the cat and whatever else it needs, then getting the cat home again.  Some cats are so fearful they act out towards any human in their vicinity-owners at home trying to get the cat in the carrier, veterinary staff trying to care for the cat…  Owners are often embarrassed by their cat’s actions and afraid their cat will hurt somebody.

Suburban Animal Clinic is a Certified Cat Friendly Practice and is working to adopt more Fear Free principles.  Our staff’s goal is to give you and your kitty the most pleasant experience possible at every visit.  Some cats don’t seem to mind coming to the vet.  But most have at least some stress or anxiety when it comes to the carrier, the car ride, or all the strange sights, smells and sounds of the vet’s office.

Pre-Visit: We recommend leaving your cat’s carrier out in the open all the time.  Leave a towel or blanket in it, and place food or treats in it.  Your cat will soon realize the carrier is not the enemy.  You may even be surprised to some day find them napping in their carrier at will!  By leaving the carrier out, you eliminate the correlation of carrier = vet.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be some stress once you close the door and place them in the car, but it’ll help with pre-visit stress.

Car rides can be stressful.  The carrier is brought outside (foreign to many kitties), the car smells funny, it’s noisy with the radio, AC/heat blowing, windows down, traffic sounds…all can be scary for a cat.  Keep the windows closed if possible, AC/Heat on low (if comfortable), and radio volume low.

During Visit: At Suburban, we do our best to escort you to the exam room as quickly as possible.  Avoid sitting the carrier on the floor of the waiting room, or in front of other cats/carriers and dogs.  Your cat may be used to your dog, kids, or other cats at home, but the vet clinic is a foreign place to them, and everybody approaching them are strangers and can be scary.

Once in the exam room, feel free to put your kitty’s carrier on the table (they like high places), and open the door.  Let your cat decide if he/she wants to come out or wait while you chat with the technician.  Keep voices low and avoid sudden movements which can startle kitty.

When it’s time for the exam, weigh-in, etc, if your cat hasn’t yet emerged from the carrier, we try first to take the carrier apart rather than dumping them out.  Imagine being in a box in what to you is a scary place, then that box being tipped upside down and shaken while you are pulled out feet first.  It’s scary!  That’s how cats feel at the vet.  The slower and calmer we proceed, the better it will go.

We’ll provide a towel for your cat to sit on during the exam.  You are also welcome to bring one from home that smells familiar.  Not only is it better than the cold, hard table, it can also serve to wrap kitty if needed, or even a place to let them hide.  We may offer treats, although we understand that many cats are too nervous to eat at the vet’s.  Feel free to bring your kitty’s special treats from home.

We recommend not trying to pet your cat’s face/head during the exam, as cats are great at redirecting their fears and anxieties on whomever’s in reach, familiar person or not, in the form of scratching and biting.  Our staff is trained to handle each patient with safety in mind, and we handle each pet as though they were our own.

We commonly use the calming pheromone Feliway in the rooms and in the cages as it can lower a cat’s stress/anxiety level.  It gives them a since of familiarity with their surroundings.  Feliway is available in a spray you can use at home in their carrier or on their bedding or in wipes that you can use to wipe the inside of the carrier (both last a couple hours).  It’s also available in a plug-in diffuser for continuous use at home.

Veterinary visits are important for long, healthy and happy lives, yet we understand the stress and anxiety that accompanies such visits.  We’ll do our best to make your cat as relaxed as possible while doing what we need to do.  There has never been a cat that we couldn’t work with!  We’ve seen it all, from the calmest of cats who will walk down the hall willingly on a leash, to the cat who is so upset and anxious it needs sedation to do a basic exam.  We will do our best to make your visit as easy as possible for both you and your feline friend.