10 Tips For Easier Vet Visits

10 Tips For Easier Vet Visits With Cats by Holistic Cat Behaviorist Layla Morgan Wilde. Revised August 2020.

Humans need regular medical check-ups, so do cats but vet visits can be stressful for pets and their owners. Every human and pet have their own way of reacting to a stressful situation like travelling to a vet or being in waiting room filled with ill or injured animals. These REVISED tips help make vet visits easier and less stressful.

Did you know: according to a 2011 AVMA report, 53% of cat owners did not visit their veterinarian in the previous year was because “the cat did not get sick or injured”. Other reasons that owners did not take their cat to the vet in a 12-month-period include:

  • Financial concern: 21.5%
  • Cat did not need vaccines: 17.3%
  • Too hard to transport: 3.2%
  • Other: 4.1%

There are more cats than dogs in the U.S. but vet visits for cats are statistically down and it’s a major concern. Cats are masters at hiding their symptoms and only a veterinarian can detect and diagnose diseases and conditions. Many issues may be easily treatable if found and treated early.

1) Be prepared. Whether it’s a routine vet visit or an emergency, reduce stress by preparing a carrier in advance.

  • Store carriers in easy to access locations.
  • Before leaving home, be sure the pet carrier is clean and in good condition with no broken zippers, faulty hinges or locks.
  • For pets who hate going into the carrier, consider turning an ordinary carrier into a cozy, everyday hideaway. Place a plush pillow and toys inside and cover the carrier with a stylish throw to match your decor. Leave the entrance door open.
  • Top loading carriers are more convenient for resistant cats.
  • All carriers should be roomy enough for a cat to be able to stand up and turn around.

comfort carrier-cat-cat wisdom 101

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top entry carriers are easier for removing.
  • To avoid carsickness, don’t feed kitty at least an hour before leaving home.
  • Have a pet ID with collars ready even for pets who normally don’t wear collars. Many cats have escaped from cars to the vet’s parking.
  • Place a cozy old towel or t-shirt with a familiar scent into the carrier.
  • Spray the interior (one spritz per side) with calming Feliway or other pheromone-based “feel good and safe” spray.
  • Other calming alternatives include homeopathy products like CBD, Rescue Remedy or flower essences. Toss in a favorite little catnip toy.
  •  Have all pet info handy including meds, supplements, dates of last visit, vaccinations and insurance especially if this is a first visit to a new vet.
  • In the winter, heat the car in advance. Some carriers come with heating pads.
  • Remember your check book, cash or credit cards to pay the vet bill.

ssleepypod review giveaway

2) Communicate. Cat are creatures of habit and most hate leaving their home.

  • Before heading out the door, communicate to Kitty what’s happening i.e. We’re going to travel in the car for short time and visit the vet who will help you feel better. There will be other animals and new things but you will be safe. I love you and you’ll come home soon after.
  • Whether you believe your cat understands or not, it will make you feel better. Whether you talk or not, your cats will notice by your actions and tone of voice if you’re nervous. Try to stay calm and speak softly.

3) Stressed human= Stressed cat. Calm human = calmer cat. Cats are skilled at mirroring and internalizing their human’s behavior. If you’re freaked out about going to the vet, chances are your cat will be too. Before, during and after the vet visit breathe deep, slow breaths. Before leaving the house stretch, do yoga, chant, pray, meditate or whatever to get yourself into a calm, balanced state. Fear and love cannot exist at the same time. Focus on love and a positive outcome.

4) Half the fun is getting there.

  • When possible, choose a vet who lives nearby.
  • Make appointments that don’t require travelling during rush hour.
  • Play soft, relaxing music.
  • Place the carrier in the back seat or cargo area of an SUV and secure it with a seat belt.
  • If two closely bonded cats are going for a wellness check-up, it may be less stressful to use one large carrier instead of two small ones.
  • Moving carriers can be hard on your back and knees. Carrying the carrier with both arms is less jostling than using the handle. Before picking up the carrier, bend your knees to protect your back.

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5) Inform the vet clinic office in advance if you there is anything unusual about the cat or if the cat is extra anxious or aggressive.

6) Don’t let the cat out of the bag. Don’t let the cat out of its carrier during the trip or in the waiting room.

7) You have arrived at your destination. Make sure the carrier is securely closed before carrying it into the clinic. Many a cat has escaped from their carrier into a vet clinic parking lot or worse, a busy street.

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8) Vet clinic waiting rooms aren’t play rooms. It’s a hospital. A feline-only practice is less stressful without barking dogs.

  • Use your common sense and practice good vetiquette.
  • If possible, don’t bring rambunctious young children. If you must bring kids make sure they have toys and treats to amuse them.
  • This is your pet’s vet visit. Let the focus be on your cat and not the other animals, their guardians or your cellphone. If you must use your cell phone speak softly.
  • Treat the clinic staff politely. They work hard under stressful conditions. Stress can account for rude or annoying human behavior. Respect everyone in the room and have compassion for their moods. They’re all there for different reasons from a routine wellness visit to a serious illness.
  • Don’t pet other animals or encourage their attention. Some cats may feel threatened by it and some even resent flattering another pet at a stressful time.
  • If there are enough seats, place the carrier next to you with the door facing you so you and kitty can see each other. In a crowded waiting room place the carrier at your feet as far away from other pets as possible. If the carrier is small enough, place it on your lap.
  • If your cat is terrified of dogs, maintain your calm energy and tell them they are safe in their carrier. In extreme cases, consider a vet with a feline-only practice.

9) A Touchy Situation. Many pets are comforted by having their guardian hold them during an examination. Some vets may ask you to assist during the exam or observe from a distance. Some clinics have a policy of not allowing pet parents into the examining room. Some vets don’t mind but won’t let pet owners’ into the back room where blood is drawn, catheters inserted etc. If it’s important to you to be in the examining room, ask in advance what the clinic policy is. No matter how urgent try to stay calm and let the vet and vet tech do their job.

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10) Happy Trails. 

  • Before leaving the clinic be sure you have all your paperwork, any instructions, meds and receipts safely placed in a handbag or bag.
  • Check the carrier before heading to the parking lot. Tell your cat they were a wonderful patient and give them a treat if it’s a routine visit.
  • If indicated, give them another treat and play with them once home.
  • If other cats are waiting at home they may notice “vet” smell. The foreign scent may cause inter-cat aggression. Allow the cat to relax or recuperate away from other cats for a few hours to lick or groom the foreign scent away. Give the room another spritz of Feliway and place the carrier in its usual location, ready for the next vet visit.

To avoid all vet trip stress consider a mobile vet with a clinic on wheels or a vet who makes house calls.

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39 thoughts on “10 Tips For Easier Vet Visits”

  1. I really appreciated your advice to try to find a vet that is nearby and to play soft calming music for your cat. About a week ago, my sister adopted this adorable kitten as a birthday resent to herself. I will have to help her look for local vets that can help make sure the cute thing stays healthy and happy.

  2. I liked how you said that a lot of pets feel more comfortable when their guardian holds them during an examination. I’ve been wondering what I can do to calm my cat down when we take her to the vet. We never thought about doing something like this, but I think that it could be really effective.

  3. My wife wants to get a cat, so I appreciated the tips you gave in your article. It makes sense how keeping calm can help your cat stay more calm too since they mirror you. We’ll be sure to keep this tip in mind for when it comes time to visit the vet.

  4. It makes sense that some more than a fifth of cat owners didn’t take their pet into the vet due to financial concern; I actually read an article that most cat owners typically have less money than dog owners. My friend actually got a cat a few months ago, so these tips could really help her take her cat to the vet. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  5. I have been thinking about getting either a kitten or a puppy this Christmas. So, it is good to know that I should find a vet that will handle the vaccinations. It is good to know that a cat will need vaccines every 12 months.

  6. My wife and I just got a cat, so we are looking for a local vet to start visiting. I like your point about choosing a vet that is close to you. If there’s ever an emergency, I’d want to get there as fast as possible, so I’ll be sure to do this.

  7. I never thought to inform the vet in advance if our cat was extra anxious. I have been worried about taking my cat to the vet because she can get really scared and nervous and exhibits this in a difficult way. I’ll be sure to talk to our vet the next time and see what they can do to help her out. Thank you!

  8. My husband recently got me a cat for my birthday, and now we’re looking for a good vet we can start taking her too. You had some great tips for visiting a vet like this, and I liked how you said to make the drive as relaxing as possible by choosing a vet that is close, playing soft music, and making sure you don’t leave during rush hour. Thanks; we’ll keep this in mind when taking our new kitty to the vet.

  9. It’s good to know that you should keep your cat in its carrier while you’re in the waiting room. You don’t want it to start getting nervous that early on. It could also cause a disaster.

  10. It’s good to know that you should tip off the vet if your cat is extra anxious. My wife and I want to get a cat, but we’re worried that it will get pretty uptight about seeing the vet. We’ll definitely make sure the vet knows that this is one of our worries so that they can be prepared in case our cat is unruly.

  11. That’s cool that some clinics will let you hold your pet during an examination and you should be sure to ask about policies.

  12. My husband recently got me a kitten for my birthday and I need to take her to the clinic soon so I am glad that I found this article. You make a great point that you should play soft, relaxing music in the car and secure the carrier in the back seat with a seatbelt. I know that my kitten can get anxious sometimes so I will make sure to communicate about the trip with my cat because they will notice my soft and calm tone of voice.

  13. We’ll be expecting to have our first family dog next month, and we are looking for an advice or tips when we bring our pup for a checkup or emergency. I never knew that calling the clinic first before bringing the animal is important during times that your pet is in an aggressive state. It’s nice to read up before anything ever happens since all of these will be useful someday. Thanks!

  14. Taking your four-legged companion to the veterinarian can be stressful- both for you and also for your adorable darling. Yes, every pet owner loves their pets and also desires the best for them. And it can be possible by performing regular health inspections of their pet at an authorized vet clinic. Unfortunately, most of the cases pets show an unwillingness to visit to vet. Stress, threat- are the common reasons for which your pet feels less willing to go to the veterinarian. Well, in that case, either you should follow the above tips or you should ‘call a mobile veterinarian to get the expected veterinary care-Thanks for the engaging tips.

  15. Pingback: How big should your veterinary clinic be? | Animal Rescue
  16. Thanks for the tips for going to the vet. My cat is always very scared of the vet trips we take, and I want to make the process easier on everybody. I like that you mentioned to make sure you keep yourself calm because cats can pick up on your emotions. I will try and remove the stress from myself so my cat can feel more comfortable.

  17. I didn’t know that cats were skilled at mirroring and internalizing their human’s behavior. My cat recently got in a fight and we’re were struggling with getting him inside the car. My son was upset at the time and screaming. That would probably explain why we had so many problems.

  18. I like how you mentioned being prepared when taking your cat to the vet. It was helpful that you included having a pet carrier ready that is in good condition. My sister recently adopted a cat from her local shelter. These tips could be nice for her to consider as she takes her new pet to the veterinarian for the first time.

  19. Wow, I had no idea so many cat owners avoided visiting the vet. Financial concern makes more sense, but simply because they didn’t get sick is not a very good reason. But I really liked your tips about preparing for using the carrier and getting the cat used to being in the carrier, and even making it a nice place to be. And I had never heard of top-loading carriers, but I’ll have to look into those; they sound perfect for my cat. Thanks so much for writing!

  20. What is comforting for me and thus my furry boys is having a good friend to come along. She helps me stay calm and focused. We talk on the way to and from, which is a help as well. My best friend knows my boys from helping me feed them to rounding them up for routine visits. She also helps in reminding me of things I want to discuss with the vet. She also will help if I have to give meds by holding my squirming boy(s).

  21. Hehe i had a giggle as today was the vet for three of the four girls..they sang their song in the car but that is the extent of their stress i would say..they all are relaxed for the vet and are comfy to walk around and investigate..they all get all lovey with her and the purrs are so loud she has to block their nose so she can hear their hearts ;)…we are always welcome out the back at the vet clinic and this is very reassuring for all of us 🙂 great post 🙂 hugs Fozziemum xx

  22. Thanks for the great tips!!! It is always good to be reminded of simple things that can really help the stress level.
    Luvs
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^<

  23. Those are great tips ! Each of us has his own PTU, and they are always open as bed in the house. We love your word “vetiquette”, it’s really impawtant ! Here it’s normal for the owner to assist during the exam. Purrs

  24. The Daily Purr! I finally got the Daily Purr! Thanks so much.

    Ched approves and Mao approves and I am so happy!

    I am reminded by that awful scare with Cheddar end of November 2012.

  25. AWESUM post guys with reeely grate tipz…

    rockin picture az well but what bout NOE BURDZ A LOUD ….pea ess…tell yur mom de food gurl likes her monogrammed hand bag on de bench 🙂

  26. Thank you for all these great tips. Poor Lacci has been to the vet nearly every week, sometimes twice a week, and the poor guy just doesn’t like it. Hope you have been well and had a great summer! xo

  27. Great tips! Going to the vet can be soooo stressful. Thank you for reminding people not to play in the waiting rooms. It is difficult enough on anxiety ridden cats to have to be there, nonetheless, put up with unwanted attention.

  28. Great Tips! I wish our vet had two waiting rooms, two cats, another dog and a dwarf goat is a challenge for all patients. Fortunately the clinic staff tries to avoid such situations by rescheduling appointments when they have an emergency case, but sometimes we rather wait in the car :o)

  29. We both have carriers so Mum can take us to the vets together when we need our annual check ups. Lucy is good if Mum seat belts her carrier on the front passenger seat. Hannah’s is fastened into a seat belt in the back of the car – she hates going to the vets and when we get there her fur is wet as she drools all the time she’s in the car. Coming home isn’t a problem though as she gets so excited when we start the journey home!
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

  30. I can’t use the nice soft carrier with zippers with 2 of my baby’s. They are escape artists! Zippers pose no problem for them. Fortunately they get out and just sit by me.
    My vet doesn’t let me help, which is OK. They let him do anything without a struggle. It always amazes me, I’ve quit warning them about a fight, they’re angels! That’s good all around. I wish we had a mobile vet, that would be handy for sure.

  31. These are all great tips! My human leaves my carrier out all the time – but then, I get to go other places besides the vet. They do let the humans hold their cats during exams there… and you should have seen the stink eye I gave my human when the tech took my temperature!

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