Mar 06 2014

Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian- Reducing the Stress for You and Your Cat


Providing good health care , especially preventive health care, can allow your cats to have longer, more comfortable lives.  However, this cannot happen unless they see the veteirnarian for needed care.  Many cats dislike going to the veterinarian , and that starts with the difficulty of getting the cat in to the carrier.   If we can make this step easier, the entire veterinary visit is usually less stressful.

The following tips will help make veterinary visits more enjoyable for you and your cat!

Understanding Cat Behaviour

  • Cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need tome to adjust to the unfamiliar. The visit to the veterinarian is often difficult because the carrier, car and the veterinary hospital are usually unfamiliar. 
    Respect your cat’s need for time to become familiear with new situations, people and places.
  • Stay calm.  Cats can sense our anxiety or frustration, which may cause them to become fearful or anxious.
  • Cats do not learn from punishment or force. Give rewardsto encourage positive behaviour. For example, if your cat is sitting calmly in or near a carrier, give a treat.  Likewise, rewards can be given to help your cat become familiar with the type of handling that may be encountered at the veterinarian such as handling paws, ears and mouth.  A treat is what is highly desirable to your cat, which may be in the form of food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward every time!

Helping  your Cat Become Comfortable with the Carrier

The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with poisitive experineces and routinely enter the carrier voluntarily.

  • Make the carrier a familiar polace at home by leaving it in a room where your cat spends a lot of time.
  • Place familiar bedding inside the carrier.  Bedding or clothing with your scent can make them feel more secure.
  • Place catnip, treats or toys inside the carrier to encourage the cat to enter at home.  Often , you will first see that treats are removed from the carrier during the night!
  • It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm, patient and reward desired behaviours.
  • If you still have trouble you may need to assess the carrier itself and choose a more cat friendly model.

Getting an Unwilling Cat into the Carrier

If  your cat needs to go the veterinarian and is not yet accustomed to the carrier , the following may help:

  •  Start by putting the carrier in a small room with few hiding places.  Bring the cat in to the room and close the door.  Move slowly and calmly. Do not chase the cat to get it into the carrier but encourage the cat with treats or toys to walk into the carrier.
  • If your cat will not walk into the carrier and your carrier has an opening on top, gently cradle your cat and lower it into the carrier.  Another option is to rmove the top half of your carrier while getting the cat to go into the bottom half and then calmly replace the top.
  • Use familiar bedding inside the carrier. Consider use of synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway) analog spray in the carrier at least 30 minutes prior to transport to help calm your feline friend.

Coming Home- Keeping the Peace in a Multi Cat Household

Cats are very sensitive to smells, and unfamiliar smells ca result in one cat no longer recognizing another. Aggressive behaviour can occur when one cat senses another as a stranger.  These suggestions can help avoid problems between cats following a veterinary visit:

  • Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how the other felines will react.
  • If all cats appear calm and peaceful, let the returning cat out of the carrier.
  • If you sense tension between the cats or if previous home comings have resulted in conflict, keep the cat in the carrier and take it to a separate room. Provide food and water and a litter box for a minimum of 24 hours while it regains the more familiar smell of home.
  • If there is still stress after this time , contact your veterinarian for more advice on slower introduction or medication to help the process. A ynthetic feline pheromone can help provide the sense of familiarity.
  • For future visits consider bringing both cats to the veterinary practice together.  this can prevent future conflict as both cats will carry the scent of the clinic.

You are an important member of your cat’s healthcare team. You can be instrumental in helping your cat have more relaxed veterinary visits and improved healthcare.

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