Paws for Thought | A trip to the vet can be cool for cats

CHILLED OUT: A little effort and thought can improve a cat's vet experience.
CHILLED OUT: A little effort and thought can improve a cat's vet experience.

A trip to the vet clinic can be a frightening experience for many cats.

This stress can be reduced, or in the case of a new cat or a kitten, prevented by teaching the cat to associate positive experiences with the cat carrier, the car, and even the clinic. Believe it or not, it is possible.

This can be achieved by the following:

- Leave the cat cage out all the time so the cat sees it routinely, and keep it in an easily accessible location

- Entice the cat to enter the cat cage by herself by placing familiar clothing or bedding in the cage, favourite toys and ensure the “cage fairy” visits often, leaving special treats for the cat to find

- Reward the cat with praise, petting and treats for entering the cage by herself

- Cat cages that open from the top as well as the front are preferable for ease of placing the cat in the cage and getting her out

- Once in the car, secure the cage with a seatbelt so it doesn’t slide around

- Cover the cage with a towel or a blanket when carrying it to and from the car and when in the clinic to minimise exposure to frightening sights, sounds and smells

- Once the cat regularly enters the cat carrier at home, take the cat, in the cage, on short car rides not associated with the vet clinic to help recondition the negative associations with the clinic

- Don’t feed the cat before car trips to prevent motion sickness

- Provide access to toileting facilities prior to car trips and vet visits as well

- If possible, take the cat to the clinic to be fussed over and receive treats at different times to help teach the cat that the clinic isn’t necessarily a horrible place

- All positive experiences should be accompanied by praise, petting and treats

- Cats should always be housed individually when transported to the vet clinic

- A cat-only clinic like the one at AMC reduces the stress when visiting the vets. Having a “dog free” building is a massive advantage in helping calm cats (and their owners) when they visit their vets 

- “Feliway” is a “feel good” pheromone spray that decreases stress and anxiety in cats. It is available at most vet clinics.

- In some cases, medication is available to administer to particularly anxious cats prior to veterinary visits. Contact your vet for details.