How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

Cat Behavior & Training > Bonding With Your Cat >

Does your cat dart out of reach as soon as she sees the cat carrier? If so, join the club; this is a common reaction for many feline companions when they know a veterinary visit is coming. A trip to the doctor’s office for your cat can be a stressful and anxious event. The stressful components to the vet visit for a cat includes the following:

  • Getting in the carrier
  • The car ride to the clinic
  • Spending time in the waiting room
  • The actual exam and treatment
  • The car ride home

Here are a few tips to making that dreaded visit safer and more pleasant for you, your cat, and the veterinary staff.

Prepare Yourself and Your Cat

As you go to the process of taking your cat to the vet clinic, stay calm. Your cat also reacts to your stress, so don’t speak loudly or yell at your cat no matter what your cat does. Speak peacefully and softly or remain quiet.

Gather all of your cat’s health history and records from other clinics and bring these documents to your appointment. Don’t forget to write down any questions you may have to ensure they are answered during your time with the vet.

If your cat is going to require blood-work, withhold food the morning of your appointment or as directed by your veterinarian. If your vet requires a urine sample, you may want to restrict your cat’s access to the litter box for a few hours before your appointment.

Before You Leave for the Vet Clinic

Getting your cat in the carrier can be a real challenge. Chances are, you do not take your cat on short trips, outings to the park, or social visits. Trips in the car for cats are far less common than for dogs. In fact, probably the only place you take your cat is to the vet (or perhaps a kennel). That means that when Kitty sees the “pet taxi” come out, it usually means bad news. Many a veterinary visit is cancelled for no reason other than the owner simply can’t find or can’t reach their cat. In homes with more than one cat, a trip to the doctor can trigger a whole chain of stressful events. Cats that have previously gotten along with each other may hiss or even fight when the patient returns home…and sometimes that means you need two visits, not just one.

One of the ways you can reduce your pet’s anxiety is to make the travel kennel an everyday object. A pet taxi or carrier’s use does not have to be limited to travel alone. Use it from day one as a retreat, a perch, or a feeding station for your cat before you ever attempt to use it as a carrier. Let your cat become comfortable seeing the carrier; placing it near a sunny window or other desirable spot in the house can make it more appealing. You can also try throwing a cat treat, some catnip, or a toy in it occasionally so your kitty moves in and out freely and develops confidence in the presence of the carrier.

In addition, you can try making the carrier a less stressful place using pheromones such as Feliway that can help calm anxious cats. Place a clean towel in the carrier and spray the pheromone on it, then allow your cat to explore the carrier for half an hour or so before attempting to put them in it.

On the day of the vet visit, get prepared by gathering your supplies beforehand. Make sure to have your keys, phone, wallet or purse, carrier, Feliway spray (if necessary), your cat’s medical records, your list of questions, and a light sheet or towel ready to go. Practice where your carrier will go and how to secure it with a seat belt.

Once you are totally ready to go, minimize the time your cat is way from home and in the carrier by gently placing them inside the carrier as calmly (and quickly) as possible. Make sure the carrier is level and won’t easily tilt, which can be uncomfortable and cause additional stress. You can also use the seat belt to secure the carrier so it won’t fall if you make a sudden stop. Lightly cover the carrier with a sheet so to allow your cat to “hide” during the drive; excess visual stimulation can stress your cat even further.


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