Has it been awhile since your cat last saw the veterinarian? If so, you’re not alone. There are quite a few pet kitties out there that haven’t visited the vet in well over a year and some that have never seen the inside of a clinic. The most common reason we hear for this is:
“My cats hates (pick one or more of the following) the carrier/the car/the lobby/big doofy dogs in the lobby/the vet/the shots/me after we go to the vet. Going to the vet makes my cat look like this and me feel like this.”
For those of you that can relate to this statement, Noah’s Ark will begin offering feline-only hours, twice a month, beginning in November. During these times, we will have only cats, rabbits and rodents coming in for appointments to reduce the stress your pet experiences at the clinic.
Now, you’re thinking that solves the big goofy dog problem, but what about all the other things that distress my cat about going to the clinic. Adding feline-only hours is part of a bigger effort we’re undertaking to make visits to the vet a little more tolerable for your cat and for you. Below are some tips for making the trip easier and changes we’re making at the clinic to lower stress.
Caging the Wild Beast:
I know when I try to get my cat in a carrier, she instantly grows three new legs, all with seven to ten claws, each of which is flailing to find carpet, carrier, clothes, skin- anything that will help to keep her out of the carrier. Really, when it comes down to it, cats should love their carrier- it’s a box! We just have to convince them it’s one of the good ones.
Try bringing your carrier out a week before the appointment. Even better, find a place for the carrier to be out all the time. Take the lid off, and put a soft towel or blanket in it. Give treats and lots of pats when your find your kitty inside the carrier or leave treats in it and walk away. If the carrier is their favorite spot to take a nap, has all their home smells on it and is the source of delicious things, it won’t be nearly so scary getting into it.
Hopefully these thing will make the carrier a happier place. If your kitty is still resistant to getting in when it’s time to leave for the vet, take the lid off or get a carrier that has a door on the lid, then gently lower the cat into the carrier. A spray of Feliway, a calming cat pheromone, into the carrier thirty minutes before leaving can be helpful as well.
Highway to the Danger Zone:
Only those who have ridden in a car with a cat know the surprising variety and volume of noises that can emanate from these small creatures. To make the trip easier, place a towel or sheet over the carrier before you leave your house so your cat can’t see out. Also, forego the handle and hold the carrier up in front of you as you would a big box to limit swinging and bumping.
If possible, heat up or cool off your car before you take your cat out of the house. Most of our kitties live a climate controlled life, so big changes in temperature can be stressful. Once you’re on the road, consider playing classical music. Soon you’ll be hearing it at Noah’s Ark, as well. Studies have shown animals to be calmer when soft instrumental music is playing. The same studies showed reggae to have a similar effect although we haven’t tried that one yet!
The Waiting Place
When you arrive at the clinic with your perfectly calm kitty, consider calling from the parking lot to see if your room is ready yet. If so, you can walk right through the lobby and into your room. If not, you’re welcome to wait in your car until we call or a technician comes out to get you. If you’d prefer to come on in, we’ve designated a shelf on the wall as our Kitty Shelf. Feel free to put your cat there while waiting to keep away from scary, snuffling dog noses. Also, our receptionist may offer you a piece of fabric sprayed with Feliway to place in the carrier.
The Moment of Truth:
All right, you got your cat in the carrier, then you got the carrier from house to car to clinic, all leading up to this moment. You’ve done all the hard work so far. Now it’s our turn to try to make things a little easier. Before you enter the exam room, the table, the scale, and even our technician and vet will be spritzed with Feliway. There may be some soft music playing. There will be treats on the counter and a kitty brush for you to use, if you’d like.
Feel free to open the door to the carrier when you get in the room, but let your kitty decide when to come out. When the vet and technician come in the room, they’ll be speaking in soft voices and moving slowly. They’ll also be offering lots of treats, if that’s OK with you. Consider picking the food bowl up a few hours before the appointment so your cat comes in hungry- that makes the treats all the more exciting!
The veterinarian will discuss your cat’s lifestyle with you to determine which vaccinations are recommended. The fewer needles there are, the less stressful the visit. We will also use small gauge needles and smaller volume vaccines when available to minimize any pain.
Breathe a Sigh of Relief
It’s over! You did it! Your cat did it! Hopefully you won’t have to see the inside of the clinic for another year! You’re welcome to check out in the room if you would like to avoid the lobby. Then, we’ll help you get your kitty back in the carrier, and you’ll both be home before you know it.
The Best Laid Plans:
Hopefully, for most cats, that’s exactly how it will go. However, there are some kitties that may need a little extra help with their vet visits to minimize their (and your!) stress. We have multiple safe options for mild to heavier sedation to make the visit easier. Legally, we are required to have seen your cat in the last year to prescribe a sedative. So, if it’s been over a year since the last visit, we would need your kitty to come in or do a house call, and we could discuss the options. If we’ve seen your cat in the last year, feel free to call beforehand if you think this might be helpful.