Taking your mature adult cat to the veterinarian
A trip to see the veterinarian can be a stressful experience for your cat. There are lots of sights, smells, sounds, people and animals that may be new and unfamiliar. There are a number of things you can do to make sure you and your cat have a comfortable and productive visit:
- Use a cat carrier. Your cat can easily become frightened while in an unfamiliar place. A cat carrier will make sure your cat does not bite, scratch, or try to escape. Make sure you leave the carrier out all the time at home to prevent the association between the carrier and going to the vet, and be sure to give your cat treats while in the carrier to help further associate it as a "good place".
- Make your cat feel comfortable. Line the carrier with familiar and comfortable bedding like an old piece of clothing that has your scent. Covering the carrier with a blanket will add darkness and make your cat feel safer while preventing the interference of other animals in the waiting room.
- Aid in the exam room. Ask your vet if you can help hold your cat in the exam room. Vets and vet technicians are very experienced at holding nervous and frightened animals, but your familiar face and smell will comfort your cat while in the exam room. Your vet may cover your cat's head with a towel. This is to give the impression that your cat is hiding to make the experience more comfortable.
- Plan for extra time. If you would like extra time to talk to your vet about your cat, be sure to schedule it when you make your appointment or try to avoid peak hours. Veterinary clinics are usually busiest in the early morning or the early evening.
- Visit frequently. Regular check-ups will help your cat get used to the experience of going to the vet, and help the vet become more familiar with your cat.
Tips on Taking Your Cat to the Veterinarian
THE CAT CARRIER
THE CAR RIDE
- Always transport the cat in a carrier or other safe container.
- Train cats to view the carrier as a safe haven and "home away from home." Keep the carrier out in the home. Put treats, favorite toys, or blankets inside to entice the cat into the carrier.
- Carriers with both top and front openings are recommended. Top-loading carriers allow for stress-free placement and removal of the cat and enable them to be examined while remaining in the bottom half of the carrier.
- Bring the cat's favorite treats, toys, and blanket. If the cat likes to be groomed, bring its favorite grooming equipment.
- If the cat has previously had negative experiences at a veterinary hospital, the veterinarian may prescribe a short-duration antianxiety medication that should be given approximately one hour prior to the visit.
AT THE HOSPITAL
- Take the cat for regular rides in the carrier, starting with very short ones, to places other than the veterinary hospital.
- Because cats may get carsick, do not feed the cat for at least an hour prior to travel.
- Reward desired behaviors, even small ones, with treats, verbal praise, and other things the cat likes (e.g., brushing, massaging, playing).
- Remain calm and speak in a soft voice to help the cat remain calm. If a situation is upsetting for the pet owner, the cat may do better if that person leaves the room.
- Always allow a trained veterinary team member to handle the cat. Even the sweetest and most laid-back cat can become aroused and fearful in a strange environment. Anxiety may cause the cat to act out of character and bite or scratch.
- Discuss techniques that might make future visits more relaxing for the pet owner and the cat.