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Taking your Cat to the Vet

Informative image: cat in gardenHow to take your cat to the vets

Good health care can allow cats to have longer, more comfortable lives. All cats should have at least an annual veterinary check, ideally twice yearly. Some will require more frequent visits, especially if they have long term medical conditions, and most are likely to need at least one operation in during their lives.

By nature, cats are independent, territorial, need to be in control of their surroundings, and are sensitive to different smells – all these things make veterinary visits stressful, for both you and your cat.

However, by taking a few simple actions we can make a trip to the vets less stressful for both ourselves and our pets!

Informative image: cat in good carrierFirst the cat carrier - which type of carrier is best?

Never travel with the cat loose in the car – unlike dogs it is necessary for all cats to be placed into a carrier or box to allow transportation. It needs to be easy to clean and robust; cardboard is no match for a determined cat.

Choose carriers that are sturdy, secure and stable for the cats, as well as easy for you to carry.  The carrier should not be so large that the cat can fall about in it.

The best are inexpensive hard-sided carriers that ideally open from the top and the front; top opening baskets or a basket where the top comes off are the easiest type to get a cat in to and out of.

Carriers which are easily taken apart are also beneficial once at the surgery, as an easily removable top allows a cat which is fearful, anxious or in pain to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for examination.

Avoid carriers that require a cat to be pulled from or shaken out for an examination.

Informative image: cat hiding under bedGetting your cat in the carrier

For many cats a visit to the vets can be a source for stress. Many cats dislike going to the vets and this starts with the difficulty of getting your cat into the carrier. If this step is made easier then for many the entire veterinary visit is usually less stressful.

Many cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need time to adjust to the unfamiliar. Visiting the vet is often difficult as the carrier, car and veterinary hospital are unfamiliar.

There are a number of ways in which your cat's stress can be reduced:

Make sure there are familiar smells for the cat – use some or all of these tips:

Ideally the basket should be regarded as normal furniture at home so the sight of it doesn’t become a signal of a trip to the vets. It needs to smell familiar and reassuring. Try putting in some clothing from the cat’s favourite person, or spray the basket and contents with Feliway (a calming synthetic cat scent or pheromone) at least 15 minutes before putting your cat in it, or wipe a cloth around the cat’s face to pick up her scent and put the cloth in the basket.

However, if your cat panics at the sight of the basket, keep it out of sight but close by and wrap the cat in a thick and familiar towel. You can then pop her and the towel into the basket quickly before she has a chance to grab the carrier and escape.

To help with future journeys - Encourage positive behaviour

Cats do not learn from punishment or force. Give rewards to encourage positive behaviour.

For example if your cat is sitting calmly in or near a carrier in the home, give a treat. Rewards can also be given to help your cat to become familiar with a type of handling that may be encounter while at the vets, such as handling paws or around the head. Treat your cat using a highly desirable object for your individual cat such as food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward every time.

The journey

Secure the basket either in the foot well or on the seat with the seat belt, to reduce the bumpiness of the ride.

Place the carrier on a towel/padding to keep it level in the car and to absorb any ‘accidents’.

Some cats like to see out, other cats are less anxious if the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel to reduce stress during transport

Drive carefully so she’s not thrown around the car, and refrain from loud music. Instead talk quietly and reassuringly, while staying calm yourself; cats are great at picking up your tension! Try to avoid rushing and bumping the basket as you carry it into the surgery. If your cat tends to be sick or soils the carrier then take spare bedding for the return trip.

In the waiting room

Cats can sense our anxiety or frustrations, which may cause them to become fearful or anxious. By remaining calm at the vets cat anxiety can be reduced.

Keep the carrier covered. Do use the cat only waiting area and put your cat on the raised areas between the seats, (your cat prefers to be high up), but avoid letting your cat sit face to face with another cat as this can be stressful too.

If your cat tends to become stressed, consider keep it in the car until you are due to be seen by the vet.

If your cats become particularly distressed, please consider the option of a home visit; please discuss with us.

Informative image: cat in its carrierIn the consulting room

Put the carrier on the table and let the vet introduce herself to your cat. Don’t be in a rush to get your cat out of the carrier, even the shyest cat may come out if given time to get used to the new environment. If your basket takes apart remove the top half so she can stay in the security of her familiar basket and bedding for most of her examination.

Do ask for a nurse to assist if you are concerned about how your cat may react.

Please ask for a demonstration or advice if you are unsure on how to administer any of the medication your cat has been prescribed.                                                                               

Going home 

the worse is now over but do remember as much care needs to be taken on the return journey as on the outward journey.  

  • Taking your Cat to the Vet
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