Imagine how you would feel if someone suddenly picked you up, put you in a box, took you for a ride in a strange vehicle, and then let an unknown person in a white coat probe your most delicate areas and stick needles in you! That is what the experience of going to the veterinarian seems like to cats. There are steps you can take to make this a less frightening experience for your cat.
Get your cat used to their cat carrier well before their veterinary appointment. Leave the open carrier sitting out so that they can explore it on their own. Place catnip or treats in the carrier to get them to look inside. You can even leave the carrier out permanently as a bed or hiding place for your cat.
Get your cat used to going for rides in the carrier. Put them into the carrier with a special treat and drive around the block a few times. Your cat will be less fearful if they see that a ride in the carrier does not always end at the vet’s office. They will also get more accustomed to riding in the car. When your cat is riding in your car, turn the stereo down to a low volume, roll up the windows and turn on the air vents. Too much noise from the stereo or the road can frighten the cat. Never put your cat into a hot car or leave her there unattended for any length of time!
Attempt to make the trip to the vet a positive experience. Give your cat special treats or toys at the vet’s office. Schedule appointments at the least busy time of day and call ahead to make sure the vet is running on time. Sitting in a crowded waiting room with barking dogs and crying children will only create more anxiety for your cat. If your cat is very fearful of dogs, you can go to a clinic that only sees cats or a cat-friendly practice (did you know that we are a cat-friendly practice here at Westwood Hills?!).
When you bring the cat home, make sure that the cat’s refuge is available. Cats recognize one another by smell. When your cat returns home, other cats may treat her as an outsider because they smell like the vet’s office. You may need to reintroduce them slowly to avoid conflict.
Written by: Chris MacDonald, DVM