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Have you ever considered a cat’s eye view of a visit to the vet?
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
Afton Jackson says
Your tips on how to make a cat feel more confident in its carrier were really helpful to read. My biggest fear with taking my cat to the doctor was that it would lash out and start being aggressive to unfamiliar people while being carried. To prevent that, I’ll use your tips when preparing my cat for its first trip to a local vet.
Brooklyn Johnson says
You made a great point about how you should try to find a clinic that caters for cats and has a separate waiting area where dogs are not allowed. I just got a cat, and am trying to figure out how I can prepare my cat for her first vet visit. I will definitely keep your advice in mind for when I take my cat to the vet, and hopefully, it will go over smoothly.
Tyler Meredith says
I like what this article mentions about improving the comfort of the carrier. I think this could be a good way of making sure the cat feels safe in it. I’ll have to keep this in mind when taking my cat to the vet next. Thanks for sharing!
Sweet Purrfections says
Great advice. I’m lucky that Truffle and Brulee are easy to put in the carrier. Truffle hates the car ride. I’ve resorted to taking both of them to the vet at the same time (even if one doesn’t need it) to avoid the stress afterwards of the strange smells.
Very smart to get the cat to love the carrier – no point in forcing them in when you can get them to actually enjoy it!
Denise Gruzensky says
Great tips for any pet parent!!
The car ride is the worst part of going to the vet for my kitties. They do okay once we get to the vet. Cinco is always nervous around people, but Manna thinks she’s the star of the show. We’ve recently changed to a feline-only veterinarian’s office and my kitties seem to appreciate the quieter environment.
My cats haven’t minded it too much when we’ve had to go to the vet. Making it all as stress free as possible is important. Thanks for the tips!
Cathy Armato says
This is such great advice, I wish I had known about these tips when I had my cat Maggie. Poor thing hated the carrier and the Vet! I love the idea of waiting in your car with cell phone on for the Vet appointment to start – brilliant! I also like that there are many more cat Veterinarians now who work exclusively with cats not dogs or other types of animals.
Christy Paws says
Great tips. Mom keeps my carrier out all the time. I love napping in it.
These are wonderful suggestions. My cat is very good at the vet’s office, but my mom’s cat has to be sedated to be examined. She’s 15 years old and really hasn’t calmed down any when it comes to things she doesn’t like. Oh how I wish my mom knew this when Emma was a kitten.
Mary E Haight says
Great tips! I have a friend who keeps the cat carrier out year round, has a cozy blanket and her tshirt inside and occasionally will add treats. Cats uses it for naps inside and perches on top to admire the view =)
Sarcastic Dog says
My vet always breaks out the frozen baby food for dogs and cats, which really helps a great deal once we’re at the office. While I don’t currently have cats in the house, I can remember the challenge of the whole ordeal of taking them to the vet and I always felt awful because I knew how stressed they were. These are really useful tips for easing the stress!
Tenacious Little Terrier says
There are more and more housecall vets popping up lately it seems. If I had a nervous cat, that sounds like it would be a good option.
choosing the right vet is like choosing the right dr. for your self you want to feel comfortable
Great tips! Couldn’t agree about choosing the right vet. Will be tweeting this out as well!
M. K. Clinton says
I always feel sorry for cats in their carriers when other people let their dogs go investigate them. How frightening.
I have been very fortunate that my cat likes her carrier. As a matter of fact, I leave the carrier out and she uses it to sleep in, making it much easier for me to get her in the crate to transport her to the vet which I have to do on a more regular basis as she ages.
These are awesome tips! I wish I had known some of them when Lilly was a baby! Her first vet visit didn’t go all the smoothly but it wasn’t really her fault. She has a bobtail and the vet made the mistake of grabbing it. She bit her. :/ Now we warn all the vets to not touch her tail.
The Island Cats says
Great tips! And these could apply to any vet visit…not just the first. 🙂
This is all awesome advice! Plus one more: when placing the cat in a side-loading carrier, back her in rear end first. It’s way easier, and she can’t splay her front legs out to stop from being put in it. When putting a cat into a top-loading carrier, cradle her like a baby and gently place her in back first, then turn her right side up when she is inside.
My human never, ever has us facing the carrier when she puts us in it, and she rarely has any problems getting us in. Well, she NEVER has a problem with me… it’s more the other cats that would be problems if she wasn’t prepared! MOL