There are more cats in American homes than dogs, yet despite their popularity, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that cats are brought to the veterinarian less often than dogs.
Why is this true? Don’t cat parents love their pets as much as dog parents do? Of course they do, so why the discrepancy? Anyone with cats will confide that they don’t go as often as they should because their cats hate going to the veterinarian. Some cats become so stressed that they vomit or defecate from fear. Others transform into hissing and spitting balls of fury. You know you should be taking your cat to the veterinarian for their routine wellness examination at least once a year, and more frequently if you have a senior cat, but the mere thought of it probably makes your blood pressure rise. Is there anything you do to make the visit less stressful for you and your cat? Here are a few tips to make the visit a more pleasant experience for you and your feline friend.
1. Bring out the carrier out a few days ahead so that your cat can become accustomed to it. Leave the door of the crate open so they can come and go and explore as they please.
2. Spray the interior of your cat carrier with a synthetic feline pheromone product(such as Feliway). These products have been shown to prevent and decrease stress in cats. So try spraying the inside of your cat carrier with one of these products 30 minutes before using it. This simple step may help to calm your cat and decrease anxiety.
3. Use lots of treats. Put some your cat’s favorite treats inside the carrier. Try putting treats or catnip inside your cat carrier so that your cat associates the carrier with a positive experience. Consider leaving a dish of their normal food or feeding a small amount of especially tasty canned food inside the crate for several days before your visit.
4. Make the carrier more inviting by placing a cozy blanket from home and favorite toys inside. Putting familiar objects inside will make the carrier less foreign and more inviting.
5. Practice makes perfect. Go on mock trips to the veterinarian with your cat. Even if you just drive around the block, the goal of these practice runs is to accustom your cat to being in a carrier and in a car. For most cats, the car ride to the veterinarian is a frightening experience and can set the stage for a stressful encounter at the veterinarians’ office. Always reward them with their favorite treats so they associate positive experiences with the car drive.
6. If these steps don’t help and your cat still becomes very stressed during their visit, ask your veterinarian if a sedative (given prior to the visit) to calm your cat might be helpful for future visits.
7. Finally, if all else fails, consider having your veterinarian come to you. Ask if your veterinarian makes house calls or if they can refer you to someone who does. Many cats that come unglued at their vet’s office feel more confident at home and do much better on their home turf.
No one likes to go to the doctor and cats are no exception. However, we go to the doctor because we know these visits are important. Likewise, my kids don’t always like to go to the pediatrician but they go despite the occasional tears and tantrums because I understand the importance of wellness exams and vaccinations. Although I always try to make these experiences as positive as possible, I wouldn’t dare miss a visit just because my child doesn’t want to go. The same should be true for our feline children. Routine examinations are important because your veterinarian can pick-up the early signs of disease, which is especially important in cats since they are very good at hiding illness, and also discuss preventative care. By following these tips, visits to the veterinarian will hopefully be less stressful and therefore easier to take your cat to the vet regularly, so your feline companion lives a long and healthy life.