Cats can be frightened when leaving their home that for indoor cats is truly their comfort zone. Just by the nature of survival, when they don’t understand their surrounds, they are scared. Here are some tips to minimize your cats stress when coming to the clinic. The stressful components to the vet visit for a cat includes the following:
- Getting in the carrier
- The car ride to the clinic
- Spending time in the waiting room
- The actual exam and treatment
- The car ride home
We asked Dr. Primovic and here are some of her favorite tips to make your cat’s visit less stressful:
- You cat can react to your stress. Speak softly and don’t yell at your cat no matter what.
- Cats are often afraid of the carrier and associate it only with those rare stressful trips to the vet. One of the ways you can reduce your cat’s anxiety is to make the pet carrier an everyday object. A pet taxi or carrier’s use does not have to be limited to travel alone. Use it from day one as a retreat, a perch, or a feeding station for your cat before you ever attempt to use it as a carrier. Let your cat become comfortable seeing the carrier; placing it near a sunny window or other desirable spot in the house can make it more appealing. You can also try throwing a cat treat, some catnip, or a toy in it occasionally so your kitty moves in and out freely and develops confidence in the presence of the carrier.
- Make the carrier a happy place by using pheromones such as Feliway that can help calm anxious cats. Place a clean towel in the carrier and spray the pheromone on it, then allow your cat to explore the carrier for half an hour or so before attempting to put them in it.
- Have everything ready then get your cat. Once you are totally ready to go, minimize the time your cat is way from home and in the carrier by gently placing them inside the carrier as calmly (and quickly) as possible.
- In the car, Make sure the carrier is level and won’t easily tilt, which can be uncomfortable and cause additional stress. You can also use the seatbelt to secure the carrier so it won’t fall if you make a sudden stop. Lightly cover the carrier with a sheet so to allow your cat to “hide” during the drive; excess visual stimulation can stress your cat even further. Do not let your cat roam freely in the car; this is dangerous for you and your pet. A cat can dart out when you open the door, hide out of reach in the seat, or wedge herself under the car’s accelerator while you are driving.
- In the car, speak softly and reassuringly, and don’t let the temperature get too hold or too cold; keep the windows rolled up and the radio off to minimize stressors and opportunities for escape.
- When you return home, open the door to the carrier and let your cat stroll out on her own to a small treat.
- When you have your actual visit, go immediately to the hospital for your appointment and right home afterward. If your cat is extremely stressed, call the clinic from your phone and tell them when you have arrived in the parking lot.
- One option is to wait quietly in the car with your cat (make sure the car isn’t too hot or cold and air isn’t blowing directly on them). Ask the receptionist to call you when they are ready for you to minimize your wait in the exam room and be ready to go in right away.
- Keep your cat in the carrier until your veterinarian or the staff is ready for you. When taking your cat to the doctor, a “pet taxi” or carrier is a must. When you arrive at the clinic, check in with the receptionist. After that, choose a spot that is quiet and away from other pets and keep the carrier covered with a light sheet or towel.
- Speak quietly and calmly to your cat during the examination and evaluation. Some cats prefer you be with them during the exam; however, some tend to be more stressed with their owners close by. If that is the case, sometimes it works to everyone’s benefit if the veterinary staff does a physical exam or procedure in a separate room with only veterinary staff in attendance. As much as you want to be with your pet every minute, this is often a simple solution that decreases anxiety.
- When returning home, provide your cat with some privacy and solitude. Many cats hiss and fight with companions on their return from a vet visit. This is called non-recognition aggression and it is very common. For more information, read this article.