I was purr-fectly happy snoozing on the sofa, when along comes Mum, scoops me up and shuts me in a plastic box smelling of damp and fear. A nausea-inducing car ride later, we arrive at a place that reeks of disinfectant. Mum puts the box on the floor and this huge, nosy hound sniffs around, but I’m trapped and can’t escape. By now my heart is pounding fit to burst and when this stranger tips me out on a table, my tail is as bristled as a toilet-brush and to Mum’s surprise I start swearing…
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Whether you have a new kitten or a senior rescue cat, it’s within your power to make sure that first trip to the vet is a positive experience.
Choose Your Vet Wisely
Where possible find a clinic that caters for cats and has a separate waiting area where dogs are not allowed. This isn’t always practical, so failing that, see if the staff are happy for you to wait in your vehicle until it’s your turn (They can buzz your mobile.) This keeps your cat away from those curious noses of the canine kind which can be upsetting. Not only that, cats are very sensitive to smell so the longer she stays in a familiar scent landscape, the happier she’ll be.
All the preparation in the world can be ruined if the vet isn’t empathetic with cats. Choose your vet wisely, and make sure he or she is a cat-person. (A giveaway sign is cat hairs on the seat of their pants.) Cat-people intuitively know that less is more, especially when it comes to restraint. In some circumstances an empathetic cat-vet can avoid the need for sedation, when others can’t get close.
You cat is also clever at reading body language, and will be less inclined to co-operate if their cat senses detect the vet doesn’t think they’re super special and utterly adorable. A vet who takes time to rub that sweet spot behind the ear and talk in an ooey-gooey way to your fur-baby will keep stress levels low and kitty purring happily.
Plan the Vet Visit
Another aspect to look into is your time management. Remember, the less stressed you are, the less stressed kitty will be. Don’t fall into the trap of rushing your cat into the carrier – instead, take your time to smooth and fuss her, then gently introduce her to the carrier.
Likewise, leave in good time, plan the route and know where you are going to park. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in traffic, running late, and then not having a clue where the clinic parking is. You’re going to be flustered and your cat will pick up on that and become stressed too.
If you dread putting your cat in the carrier then you’re not alone. Most people have experienced the ‘comedy cat’ moment when, like something out of ‘Simon’s Cat’, their pet spreads their legs in a diamond shape to make it physically impossible to insert them into the narrow entrance to the carrier.
How much nicer for everyone, if your cat walks in of her own accord?
And no, this isn’t some sort of hysterical hallucination, but can be achieved with patient planning.
Here’s your Cat Carrier 101 for stress-free cat crating.
- Leave the carrier in a quiet corner of the room: Your cat can’t learn to love the carrier if it’s in an attic roof or a dusty shed.
- Give the carrier cat appeal: Leave the door open. Put some soft blankets inside or a T-shirt smelling of you. Adding familiar scents make it seem more like a den and a safe place to be.
- Spritz with Feliway: Amp up the comfort volume by spritzing with Feliway. This synthetic feline facial pheromone sends out a scent message that this is a super safe place to be.
- Add tempting surprises: Pop in some tasty treats, so your cat’s more inclined to pop in to investigate.
- Lavish praise: When she does go inside, be sure to quietly tell her what a super-clever kitty she is.
- And…repeat: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so start weeks before the vet visit and keep replacing those treats so she pops in automatically each time she strolls past.
Build Social Skills
Feral cats hiss, spit, and lash out because they lack socialisation in younger life. These felines failed to become familiar with the good things people offer, and label all human-kind as dangerous.
By bolstering your cat’s confidence you can help her to be comfortable in strange situations such as a trip to the vet. This starts in young kittens by having friends visit, sit on the floor, and encourage the kitten to come to them. Also, get your adult cat used to being stroked, groomed, and fussed. Practice handling the cat and doing things like raising their lip, touching their toes, and lifting their tail. Give lots of praise and reassurance so kitty understands how courageous they are to allow such impertinence, and it will all pay off in the end.
Remember, a confident cat is better equipped to cope in strange situations. Build that confidence with regular contact, play, and providing a safe home with plenty of food, water, and litter trays for each cat, along with their own resting places.
That first vet visit is all about preparation, and once you see things from a cat’s eye view then you’ve made a pawesome start.
How does your cat cope with visits to the vet? What steps to you take to make it easier for you and your cat?
Top image: brownpau via Flickr