Regular checkups are important for cats, just as they are for humans. Being owned by a feline means it's your responsibility to ensure your kitty gets the medical care she needs. I know that taking your cat to the vet may not be a walk in the park for either of you, but there are several things you can do to make your cat more comfortable going to the vet. Try these tips to help make your vet trips easier and less stressful on both you and your feline friend.
Get Your Cat Used to His Carrier: When you pull out your cat's carrier, does he automatically run under your bed or couch? Many cats associate their carriers with negative experiences. One thing you can do to make vet visits more pleasant is to change your cat's association with his carrier.
Begin by leaving his carrier out all the time. If your carrier has a removable top, take the top off so that your cat can easily get in and out of the bottom part of his carrier. If your carrier doesn't have a removable top section, leave the carrier door open so your cat can go in and out of it voluntarily.
To make the carrier comfortable for your feline, place some soft cat bedding or a piece of clothing with your scent on it inside. When you notice your cat sniffing, sitting by, or in the carrier, reward him with a treat. Do this every single time you see him near or in the carrier. Start feeding your cat near, and eventually in, his carrier. This will help him begin to associate his carrier with positive things. You can further your cat's positive association with his carrier by placing his favorite toys or catnip inside it.
Get Your Cat Used to Car Trips: Once your cat is used to her carrier, you can begin to get her used to car rides. Start by simply placing your kitty in her carrier in the car for a few minutes at a time. Reward her with treats every time to build a positive association. Work up to turning the car engine on and taking short drives. Ensure that you always talk to your feline in a calm, happy tone, and reward her with treats on each car ride.
Take Practice Trips: Petfinder.com suggests taking practice trips to the vet with your cat. Take your cat to the vet once or twice a week, but do not have him examined during these trips. Rather, give your kitty treats while in the waiting room. Introduce your cat to the veterinary staff, and have them give your cat treats as well. Ask if you can spend some time in an examination room with your kitty. Once inside, open your cat's carrier, and allow him to explore the room. Reward him with treats when he's on the examination table. Repeated positive experiences in the waiting room, examination room, and with the veterinary staff will help your cat feel more comfortable when it's time for a real veterinary visit.
Find a Cat-Friendly Veterinarian: Some veterinarians have feline-only practices while others are making an effort to make cats more comfortable at their offices. You can search the American Association of Feline Practitioners to find a cat-friendly veterinarian in your area.
Get Your Cat Used to Handling: You can help your kitty become more comfortable with vet exams by touching your cat's ears, face, paws, and tail while she's relaxing at home. Gently picking up her paws, feeling her stomach, and opening her mouth will also help her feel more comfortable when your vet has to examine her.
Making Your Cat Comfortable in the Waiting Room: Some cats feel less vulernable when covered with a towel. If it helps your kitty, bring a towel to cover his carrier with while waiting for your appointment. Don't allow strangers or dogs to approach your cat in the waiting room. Most cats are stressed out by unfamiliar people and pets. Kindly explain to others who want to peek in on your cat that your kitty is stressed and needs his space right now.
Pam Johnson-Bennett recommends using your smart phone (if you have one) to video concerning behaviors so that your vet can view them firsthand. I've actually done something similar in the past for my vet, and I believe it helped her understand Jewel's behavior better.
Do you remember when Jewel was howling, seemingly randomly? I used my smartphone to record the audio so that our vet could hear it for herself. I also took photos of the way Jewel ate to help our vet understand Jewel's eating position, which changed over time. The audio files and photos definitely helped her gain a better understanding of Jewel's symptoms and behaviors.
Going to the veterinarian for regular checkups is important. Using these tips will help you reduce stress for both you and your kitty on trips to the veterinarian.
What do you do to reduce your cat's stress on trips to the vet?