Getting the cat to the vet is often one of the biggest hurdles a pet parent faces when kitty is not feeling well when it’s time for a check-up and vaccines or a cat dental cleaning. Here are some low-stress tools to make your next journey to the vet a little less dramatic.
Proper transport vehicle
I’m not talking about your car here folks; I’m talking about your cat carrier. While soft carriers are chic and a handful of very relaxed Persians may accept those bubble-backpacks, the best carrier is still a hard-plastic one. Cats need a stable vessel to travel in that is big enough for them to feel comfortable but small enough to feel like a safe retreat.
Your carrier should open from both the front and the top, and ideally, the top shell should be able to be removed quickly and easily. A hard carrier is especially helpful at the vet if you have a nervous cat. You can take the top off, and they can be examined in the carrier where they feel safe(r). Also, when you can take the lid off, they don’t need to be pulled out of the carrier against their will, which can add un-needed stress and escalate their fear.
Acclimating the pet to their carrier
Once you have purchased your carrier, it is essential to get your cat comfortable with their carrier. Make it a safe place rather than a scary box that takes them places they do not want to go! The carrier needs to spend time in the main social area of the house so your cat can retreat there at will. It helps to have comfy blankets inside, comforting smells like Feliway® or catnip toy, and give treats to kitty inside the carrier. If you are working to de-sensitize your cat, you can even carry them around the house in the carrier for brief periods and reward them afterward with their favorite treat or their dinner.
Ensuring a smooth ride
First and foremost – avoid grabbing the carrier by the handle and poor dangling kitty in the air! Pick up the carrier from the bottom like a box and carry it like a precious, fragile package. Place the carrier on the floor of the car for the most stable ride possible, between the front and back seats is a great place. Play calming music (classical music and soft rock have both been shown to reduce anxiety), take the slower route, and try being relaxed. All these little things help you to arrive at the vet with the calmest cat possible.
Arriving at the vet hospital
Weather permitting, you may want to leave kitty in the car while you check-in so that you can go directly into the exam room (you can also call from the car to tell the receptionists you’ve arrived). This way, you can avoid having to put your cat on the floor or subjecting her to the sights, smells, and sounds of dogs and other cats in the waiting room.
If you need to bring kitty into the waiting room, having a towel to cover the carrier and trying to place him on a table or chair facing the wall will also help to minimize this exposure. Once in the exam room, put the carrier on the floor and open the carrier door and allow your cat to come out on her own. If she does not want to come out, the top of the carrier can be removed to enable the vet to do the exam. Let the technician know your cat is nervous, and they will take extra care to help your cat feel more comfortable with the whole experience.
Extra help getting your cat to the vet
Some cats get very worked up just thinking about the vet, and these gentle transport ideas aren’t enough. To help your cat worry a bit less about the whole experience, your veterinarian can prescribe pre-visit calming aids.
Importantly, do NOT feel embarrassed or worried that your cat isn’t his usual purring self at the vet. The veterinary staff understands that cats don’t like to travel and have strange people touch them in unfamiliar ways.
Every veterinarian would rather be able to help keep your cat healthy than have you worry that your cat isn’t a model citizen and so shouldn’t have the opportunity to be cared for. If you need more ideas or more help, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.
Hopefully employing some or all of these tactics can help make your next trip to the vet just a little bit easier for you and your cat!