Feline visits to the veterinary’s office have declined steadily over the past decade, despite the fact that the population of cats has increased over the years. It’s estimated that over half of household pets are cats, but felines only make up 39% of visits overall in the veterinary clinic1. Possible reasons for this trend include the misconception that indoor cats don’t need cat insurance or regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations, and due to the fact that, well, getting the cat in the carrier and in the car and in the waiting room and then in the exam room is stressful for the cat, and you! Here are 5 tips for making your cat’s next vet visit smoother:
1. For driving safety, ALWAYS use a carrier when traveling to the vet’s office. Even if the carrier is scary at home (tips on making the crate less scary are next), when your kitty is in a foreign environment, it will give her a sense of security and a place to hide. The carrier doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy or expensive, but one where the top portion comes off completely in addition to having a door is generally more cat friendly. Pick one that is small enough to feel cozy, but large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around.
2. Use a feline pheromone product such as Feliway at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to introducing the carrier at home and before an appointment. Pheromones work by creating a calming effect, much like the pheromones a mother cat gives off to her kittens. The product can be sprayed in the carrier and around it. Use it again prior to the visit as well.
3. Acclimate prior to the visit. Set out the carrier far in advance, even weeks if you can. Put it in a favorite place in the house that she visits often. Place her favorite person’s article of clothing or a favorite blanket or bed in there. Leave the door open to allow her to come and go as she pleases.
4. Use treats and food and an extra incentive to make the new carrier fun. Play with toys in and around the carrier. Remember, this should all be done far in advance of the actual appointment.
5. The day of the appointment, use more Feliway. Some cats feel more secure if the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel; other cats like to be able to see out. Ignore meowing during the car ride, as this will usually quiet down after a bit. Secure the carrier to the seat with a seat belt. When you are at the veterinary clinic, ask if you can wait in a quiet exam room instead of in the waiting room, which tends to be noisy and filled with dogs. When you are in the exam room, open the carrier door, but don’t force him or her out. When the veterinarian comes in, see if the majority of the examination can be performed with the top portion of the carrier off, but the kitty still sitting on the familiar blanket in the familiar carrier.
An informational video of this process can be viewed at www.catalystcouncil.org. Or, you can read the top 10 ways to keep your cat healthy on our blog. We hope that by taking these steps, your furry feline friend will soon look forward to going to see the veterinarian!
1 The “Positive CATtitude” Makeover: How to Make Your Practice Cat-Friendly. Clinician’s Brief./ Sept 2012. Vol 10 Number 9