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How to Bring Your Cat to the Vet: A Guide to Stress-Free Visits

As a cat owner, I know first-hand how stressful a visit to the Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital can be for both cat and owner.  It is one of the main reasons owners do not bring their cat to the veterinarian. Unfortunately, less than half of all cats return to see their vet after their initial kitten visits. Imagine if you never saw your doctor or dentist after childhood! 

Without regular veterinary care, cats can suffer from pain and disease, unbeknownst to their owners. Cats are experts at concealing symptoms – they don’t let on that anything is bothering them until way past the time when we should be intervening. A variety of diseases, including dental disease, chronic kidney disease, infectious viral diseases, and arthritis, are undetectable to most owners in their early stages. Your veterinarian is often able to diagnose and treat these and other diseases early, resulting in a longer, happier, healthier life for your cat. This means more quality time spent with you!

We know regular veterinary visits are of benefit to our cats – but how do we get them to Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital? Some owners are fortunate to have cats that enjoy, or at least tolerate, a car ride and a visit to the vet. If your cat is anything like mine, then a trip to the veterinary hospital is most definitely a rodeo. However, this shouldn’t prevent our “grumpy” cats from getting proper health care too.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to make a trip to the vet less stressful for both cat and owner.  They take a little foresight and preparation but are certainly worth the effort! Below are some tips for a stress-free vet visit.

  1. Starting from a young kitten, touch your cat’s ears and paws. Gently open its mouth and lift its tail. Teach them that these actions are not threatening. These are all things that your veterinarian will do during a routine physical examination. If your cat is already used to this, the physical examination will be a less frightening experience for them. In addition, this will ease nail trims, teeth brushing, and administration of medications by you.
  2. Days before the anticipated veterinary visit, place the travel carrier in the room where your cat spends most of its time. If your cat doesn’t seem to have a preference for a particular room, place the carrier in a warm, low traffic, and relatively quiet area of the house. Put a favourite blanket and toys inside the carrier. Throughout the day, place a small treat in the carrier to encourage your cat to go in all on its own. Reward any entry into the carrier with loving pets and a small treat.
  3. Pheromones can create a positive association for the cat with its carrier. These are compounds produced in glands near the cat’s whiskers and are used in marking behaviours. When a cat rubs its face on a person or object, it is communicating a sense of comfort and safety. We have been able to create compounds that mimic these hormones. They are available as Feliway (brand) sprays, diffusers, and wipes. Spray or wipe Feliway on the carrier once a day while the cat is adjusting to it, and on the day of the veterinary visit.
  4. When it comes to getting your cat in the carrier on the day of the visit, I find a smooth but quick approach works best. Ideally, at this point, your cat may go into the carrier on its own. If not, then you will have to put your cat into its carrier. Plan ahead – have the carrier set up and the door open, ready for your cat. Don’t allow your cat time to resist – once they start, they usually have the upper hand. Instead, quickly and calmly place your cat in its carrier and close the door.
  5. Always transport your cat in a carrier – never allow it to roam free in a vehicle. This is both unsafe for you as a driver, and stressful for your cat. Ideally, strap the carrier securely in the vehicle with a seat belt.
  6. At Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital, open the carrier door and allow the cat time to adjust to its new surroundings. It may come out and explore the room, or it may choose to stay in its carrier for the entire visit. This is usually not an issue, provided the top can be removed to allow examination by your vet.
  7. If a cat is likely to claw or bite, then it may be safely restrained with a blanket or by a registered veterinary technician if necessary. If restraint techniques are used, they are for the safety of the cat, the staff, and you.
  8. Once home, your cat may be “off” for a few hours to a few days. It may hide, or display aggression towards you or other animals in the household. In most cases, giving your cat its own room with food/water/litterbox and time to adjust are sufficient for your cat to calm down and feel at ease in its own home again. As always, it is recommended to keep calm and not discipline your cat when it is afraid.

Check out this video for helpful hints on how to get your cat in their carrier.

There are lots of reasons for us to see cats on a regular basis. Keeping up-to-date with vaccinations and deworming, preventing disease, and early disease detection and treatment are important to keep our pets and communities healthy. We recommend annual wellness examinations for cats under the age of 8. As cats age, they may require examinations every 6 months as well as annual senior bloodwork in order to detect diseases at their earliest stages.

If you have any questions about your cat’s health or wish to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to call Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital at 403-342-6040. We are always happy to see our feline patients!

Written by Dr. Rebecca Jackson

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