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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.