August 22nd is Take Your Cat To The Vet Day and before we go any further, please note: there is no Take Your Dog To the Vet Day. Why do cats get the unwelcome holiday? Sadly, it’s because cats get taken to the vet about half as often as dogs and only when a cat very ill. Why? Cats go to great lengths to appear well (it’s a survival instinct) and avoid discomfort. That includes the stress of being corralled into a carrier, a bumpy car ride to the vet in their portable prison, a foreign place with strange smells and sounds like dogs barking, being examined under bright lights by a Dr. Stabby and reverse the fun, winding back home. It’s no fun for the one doing the coraling, carrying, driving and worrying either.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have vet visits with more purrs and less hiss.
Look at how lovely this sweet kitten’s first vet visit was. It’s none other than Marmalade of video fame and the positive experience paved the way for future easy vet visits. Note the calm, positive energy of the vet, staff and cat parents.
Read my extensive post on making vet reasons easier or my quick tips below.
- We don’t expect you to actually take your cat to your vet today but how about making an appointment or researching a new vet with mobile or a feline-only practice or feline-friendly practice. A vet who makes house calls or one with a mobile clinic solves most of the stress issues. Most cats feel less stressed in a feline-only clinic. Enter your zip code here and find one near you from The American Association of Feline Practitioners. Not all vets are created equal. Some are better and if you’re not happy with your vet, find one who is a better fit. We love the convenience of our mobile vet but love our new feline-only vet too. And yes you can have more than one vet plus specialists, just as you would with medical care for humans.
2. Be prepared. Be Prepared. Be prepared and don’t forget to breathe. 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 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. Yes, there an app for that. Pet Veterinary Records.
- In the winter, heat the car in advance. Some carriers come with heating pads or use an old, wool sweater with your familiar scent. I like to place a folded puppy pad on the bottom of the carrier making it easier to clean in case of vomit or other liquids.
- Remember your checkbook, cash or credit cards to pay the vet bill.
- 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.
- Book a wellness visit well in advance and stay alert to subtle changes in your cat’s mood and behavior.
- Give yourself a treat for being a responsible pet parent 🙂