A Cat Owner’s List of Tips for Less Stress on the way to the Vets

An excellent web video called “Cat Carriers: Friend not Foe” is available which demonstrates the recommendations listed below.  Please feel free to use this link to see the site: www.catalystcouncil.org/resources/health_welfare/cat_carrier_video/

Step 1)

Choose a good carrier: 

An ideal carrier is safe, easy to clean, easy to get your cat into and out of, and a reasonable size for you to carry.  Many an injury can occur when a frightened cat jumps out of an owner’s arm, or is loose in the car during a sudden stop. Carriers that can be opened from the top, a side or that can be easily taken apart and re-assembled work very well.  Plastic carriers are easy to clean, which is especially important if a cat has urinated or vomits during the trip.  Soft cloth carriers are harder to clean but more comfortable for some cats.  A good carrier can be a safe, and even comforting place for the carrier trained cat.

Step 2)

Making the carrier a welcome den for your kitty:

Many people store their cat carrier in the closet or basement and get it out when it is time for that yearly trip to the veterinarian.  As a result, the kitty hides when is sees the carrier.  The carrier also may smell strange from being stored, and from previous trips during which the cat felt nervous.  To help alleviate some stress find that carrier, clean it up and place a nice comforting towel or a piece of clothing from the cat’s favorite person in it.  Put the carrier in a place where the kitty often relaxes or sleeps and leave it there with the door open, inviting the cat to rest or play in it.  For particularly nervous cats, enticing them to enter the carrier with treats or play can really help.  If the carrier is a regular and safe part of the kitty’s life it won’t seem scary when it is time to ride to the veterinary office.

Step 3)

Getting ready for a ride:

Once your cat is used to being in and around the carrier, we need to get her used to the sounds the carrier makes when the door is opened or closed, and the feeling of being picked up and moved.  Exercises at home prior to the vet visit can help.  Make sure to minimize shifting and bumping when the carrier is carried.  (This is why you should avoid getting a carrier bigger than you can comfortably handle.)

Step 4)

Getting used to the car ride:

Some cats feel more comfortable with a blanket or towel draped over the carrier for rides.

Bringing the carrier to the car and getting the cat used to short drives can also help them prepare for future vet trips. 

We need to try to make the journey in the car as smooth as possible.  During cold weather, warm the car up prior to travel.  In hot weather remember that closed cars heat up fast and heat stroke is a concern; so don’t leave pets in closed cars unattended for any length of time.  Avoid loud music, and sudden accelerations or stops as much as safe driving allows. 

Step 5)

Minimizing stress at the Veterinary Hospital

Try to sit at a distance from dogs in the office and keep a cover over the carrier if kitty is more nervous at the Veterinary office.  If your cat is particularly anxious, ask to arrange an appointment during one of the quieter times at the clinic.

While it would be ideal for cats to visit the Veterinary office when it is calm and there are no dogs barking (especially true if the cats don’t live with dogs), that is not always possible.  Most small animal practices don’t have the luxury of having a “cat only” area.  In order to help our feline patients, State Street Animal Hospital is trying out a “cats only” Wednesday appointment time once a month.  Ask us about “Whisker Wednesday” if you would like to try this out to help your feline friend feel less stressed.

About Stephen Gardner
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