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The Dreaded Vet Visit – How to Reduce Stress for Your Cat

“My cat hates the vet,” it’s a phrase we hear far too often while working in a veterinary practice. As a cat owner myself, I can relate to the struggle of trying to stuff a nervous, uncooperative cat into a carrier and dragging it to the vet (figuratively only, of course, be gentle with your cats please). Veterinary visits can seem so stressful that it’s often easier to just put it off and withhold annual exams – how important is that check-up anyways? It’s no surprise that routine annual exams are recommended to maintain the overall health of your pet. They can also be beneficial in reducing stress if done regularly, and a few extra steps are taken to help keep your cat calm and relaxed. Imagine having to go through the stress for the first time when your cat is sick and uncomfortable, believe me, it’s less than ideal. Luckily, there are a few helpful tips available to make your cat’s trip to the vet a more positive experience.

If possible, getting prepared for the upcoming veterinary visit a few days in advance is a good idea. Call the clinic ahead of time to schedule your appointment and try to request a time of day where traffic flow in the hospital is expected to be lighter. Being surrounded by barking dogs and large crowds of people do the opposite of helping a nervous cat remain calm. Another way you can prepare at home is to get your cat used to being handled and touched. You can practice touching their ears, around their face and looking into their mouth as they will likely be more comfortable if these actions aren’t being performed for the first time by a stranger. As an added bonus, doing this is also a great way to initiate tooth brushing with your cat.

Cat carriers – do I need to use one? It is highly recommended that you keep your cat safely contained in a pet carrier while at the vet. You should choose one that is large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around comfortably. Ideally, it should be able to be opened both from the top and the front for ease in removing the animal from the carrier. Bringing the carrier out into a room in your home where your cat likes to hang out prior to the vet visit can help them get comfortable with it and give them a chance to enter on their own terms. Putting their favourite treats or blanket inside may help to peak their interest. Leaving the carrier out for your cat to come and go as they please is a great way to break the association between the carrier and a scary trip to the vet. For anxious cats, you may find it helpful to purchase Feliway, a pheromone spray that can have a calming effect as it mimics the pheromone passed from mother to kittens. Spraying some on a blanket placed in the carrier prior to leaving for the appointment could help to keep your cat relaxed and happy.

Cat’s often associate a trip to the vet with being in the car because let’s face it, and it’s typically the only time they’re ever in it. Taking your cat on short practice drives is a good way to help them get used to the idea of travelling without the negative association of going somewhere where they feel threatened and afraid. Ensure to keep their carrier secure in the vehicle and turn the music down and keep air conditioning/heat vents from blowing directly into the carrier. On occasion, you may find that your cat gets car sick from travelling. To help prevent this withholding food for a few hours prior to the appointment may be a good idea. It may also help to entice your cat to eat treats or food while at the clinic as a positive distraction from the poking and prodding that will inevitably need to occur. Consider bringing some of your cats’ favourite treats or canned food along with you for them to snack on while in the exam room, it may help them to feel more comfortable.

Who said a trip to the vet needs to result in scratches and panic? Next time you need to schedule your cat in for a wellness exam remain calm and keep these tips in mind.

Give us a call to book your next appointment.

Written by: Halifax Veterinary Hospital

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