Reducing Feline Stress During Visits to the Vet
It is often assumed that vet visits for our feline friends are always going to be stressful and scary, but some procedures can be followed to help make these visits less anxious for our cats. Some of these things are already done here at Blue Lake Animal Care Center, but these can often be done by you as well. Let’s see if you can make changes to help your cat feel safer during his/her trip:
Invest in a quality plastic or nylon carrier
Buying a well-made plastic or nylon carrier that opens quickly from both the front AND the top is a great start. The hard plastic carriers also allow us to just remove the top half of the carrier, giving the doctor access for exam, but leave some security for your kitty. These types of carriers are durable and easily cleaned, usually lasting your kitty’s entire lifetime.
Keep the carrier out and stocked with treats!
If you only pull out the carrier to take your cat in for exam & vaccines once a year, your cat will quickly figure that out… Leaving the carrier out for your cat ensures they have no negative association. We suggest leaving some soft bedding and treats/catnip in it. Allowing cats to spend happy time in the carrier will further promote a positive association with the carrier.
Feliway is a synthetic pheromone product that mimics the natural calming pheromone that cats make in their cheek scent glands. This is the scent they rub on items when happy, and it naturally helps to calm and relax most cats. This is quite helpful in the vet office, but works even better for cats that have exposure prior to entering the hospital. Feliway comes in a spray that you can use on the bedding in kitty’s crate prior to loading up for the vet visit, and also comes in a wall plug-in and “wet wipes”. We recommend use of the spray about 15-30 minutes prior to getting your cat in his/her carrier to allow the alcohol in the spray to evaporate. The wall adapter is the better choice for cats that are nervous at home as well as at the vet. We sell “stress relief” packs for cats prior to their visit, which includes a wipe to apply to the carrier 15-30 minutes prior to their visit. In addition, the pack includes a capsule of Gabapentin. This medication has a calming and sedating effect in cats that often makes them more relaxed for their visit.
Bring kitty to the vet hungry
If you skip the meal prior to your kitty coming into the vet, they should find treats more exciting. If your kitty has food available all the time, remember to pick up the food 4-6 hours before the appointment. Avoid this step if your cat has diabetes or you are told otherwise.
Speak in a quiet voice & allow kitty to explore the exam room
Cats are very sensitive to noises, so remember to speak in a calm, quiet voice to help reduce stress. It would also be best to turn down your cell phone while in the exam room. Once settled into the exam room, open the side carrier door, and face it away from the people in the room. We can then take a history from you while your kitty acclimates to his/her surroundings. Giving cats a 4-5 minute time frame to get used to scents, sounds, and sights of a new area can really help them feel more comfortable. You can even offer treats/catnip just outside the door of the carrier to encourage kitty to come out and explore.
Don’t be a stranger! Bring kitty for social visits
The more experiences a cat has with the clinic that are not painful or scary, the better the chance that this will be thought of as a positive place. Especially if you have a kitten or young cat, we encourage you to take your cat on outings in the carrier to the clinic, a favorite pet store, or simply a ride in the car. This will acclimate them to travel (which comes in handy if you have to move too!) Make sure to keep trips short and sweet initially. Pet your cat with long, calming strokes in favored areas to encourage relaxation.
Believe it or not, how you pet your cat can either aggravate or calm and reassure him/her that everything is ok. Start at favored spots like the chin, cheek, or top of head, and lightly stroke down the body slowly. Cats are very sensitive to our energy as well, so taking a deep breath and relaxing your own body can also be quite helpful for your kitty to feel better about life.
If you have additional questions about how to make your cat’s trip to Blue Lake Animal Care Center easier and less stressful, just give us a call!