Updated: Feb 9, 2022
A visit to the vets can be stressful for both you and your cat.....I have the war wounds to prove it!
If you dread putting you fluffy friend in their carrier and visiting, whether its for a routine appointment or a check up when they are poorly, here are some tips I have picked up over the years.
Firstly get your cat used to the cat carrier, rather than hiding it away in the loft have it sitting out so the cat get used to it on a daily basis and even might use it as a place to sleep and feel secure in. Leave bedding in the carrier so the cats scent is transferred and therefore they feel safe there. I have so many owners phone up cancelling their appointments because the minute the cat saw the carrier come out they did a runner as associate it with the vet visit. Leave plenty of time to put your cat into the carrier if you suspect its going to be tricky, try not to stress. Your cat will sense your anxiety and that in turn will put them on high alert. Make sure your cat carrier is large enough for your cat, it isn't much fun if its too cramped for them to turn or stand. Its a good idea not to feed you cat for a few hours before a vet visit to minimise vomiting or car sickness.
Pheromones are substances released when your cat is happy and relaxed. Synthetic pheromones (click for link) are available in a variety of formulations such as this flyway spray. The idea is you spray it in the carrier and car and it mimics the happy signals the cat would produce. The aim is to help settle and relax your cat to minimise the stress of the situation. It can be useful to use around the house also once the cat comes home after a stay at the vets such as when in for neutering. These products also come in 'plug in' versions which can be useful round the house when required continuously.
If you need to travel in the car to the vets then make sure the cat carrier is secured properly and not able to move around and scare the cat. Also a blanket or similar over the carrier can help to calm them. Never travel with a loose cat in the car, it is illegal and incredibly dangerous. Now be aware if you are traveling in hot weather you will need suitable ventilation as they can quickly overheat especially when stressed and NEVER leave your cat in a hot car unattended, this can prove fatal.
When you arrive in the waiting area try to stay away from dogs, many surgeries have separate cat and dog areas which is a big help. It is an idea for nervous cats to continue keeping the carrier covered with a blanket. keep the carrier on a chair if possible rather than the floor as cats feel less vulnerable at hight. Never take your cat out the carrier while in the waiting room.....you never know what other patients are going to show up.
Many vet surgeries have allocated cat consult rooms and 'cat friendly clinics' it is worth looking out for these to minimise stress. In our surgery we have a cat climbing tree in the cat consult room which helps make the wee one feel safe and more secure in its surroundings. Once in the consult, if your cat is able, let them have a sniff about and explore. If your vet is anything like me, some cuddles and treats can often help the situation. If you cat is particularly nervous let the vet know as there are highly trained staff to help with holding for procedures and examinations so you don't have to.
If you have concerns about your cats stress and travel to the surgery then have a chat to your vet. There are some options of medications that can be given prior to a vet visit to minimise stress but these can only be used dependent on your cats health and vets recommendation.