Taking your cat to the veterinarian can be a stressful experience for pet parents of any age, but can be especially tough for senior citizens who might need an extra hand in calming kitty. Here are some ways to help ease the stress for you and your feline friend. We want to help you make taking kitty to the veterinarian a pleasant experience.
Making the veterinarian appointment
Start by asking to have your veterinarian appointment scheduled during a time of day that is the least busy. For us, that’s between 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. We want to minimize lots of activity and noise in the waiting room.
Once your pet is at Belle Mead Animal Hospital, all your worries are over and your job is done. We are a feline friendly practice trained to handle kitties in the most gentle and safest ways. We are all cat owners as well.
Many cats, although hard to handle at home, are quiet and easy to examine at the hospital. For cats that are still tense and nervous at the hospital, we use Feliway pheromone and something we call Feline friendly Torb, if needed. We do not charge for Feline Friendly Torb, and many clients request it. It’s an extremely safe shot of a pain medication with a gentle sedative effect that can be used in any age cat and even cardiac patients. It takes 10-15 minutes to work and relaxes many cats enough to help our team more easily examine the pet and take blood work if needed.
If that isn’t enough, then we can give another shot called Kitty Magic that sedates the cat enough to work on without complete anesthesia. As soon as we are done we can reverse it completely, and cat goes home safely and normal within minutes.
Getting kitty inside the carrier
Most cats run when an owner brings a transport carrier in from the garage and storage. We recommend you spray a carrier with Feliway pheromone weekly and leave the cat carrier out in a room like your living room 24/7 where your family and cat spends the most time and feels most comfortable.
You can place food, cat nip treats, and/or favorite bedding inside it. Use cat feather wands and/or a laser pointer and play with your cat around the carrier. Let your cat learn to use the carrier as a “safe place” and sleeping area. Soon your cat will view the carrier as a positive experience, and not just another scary trip out of the house. This is also important in case of fire or other emergency where time is if the essence.
Prepare in advance
When it’s actually time to bring your cat to the vet – prepare 30-45 minutes before your appointment. Your pet must always be in a carrier. Once safe in the carrier, most cats feel hidden and secure. However for cats who meow or scratch from within the carrier, do not open the carrier until your veterinarian is present.
Don’t ever just carry them out of the house to your car. No matter how much they love you, they can suddenly get scared and scratch you as they jump out of your arms and run off accidentally.
Try wrapping kitty in his favorite blanket or towel or even a pillow case before placing him in the carrier. Practice holding him in this manner at other times so kitty does not associate the blanket with a trip to the vet.
Consider using Feliway at home. This pheromone is used by cats to mark their territory as neutral, safe and secure. By simply spraying Feliway on his/her favorite towel or bedding and placing it inside the cat carrier at least 30 minutes before you plan to leave your home, you are creating a state of familiarity and security within the carrier. The cat feels a sense of comfort once inside and can more easily cope with what seems a challenging situation. You may even want to use Feliway more often, not only while preparing for vet visits, so that kitty does not associate the spray only with a trip to the vet.
Spend “quiet time” with your cat at least an hour before placing him or her in the carrier. Petting your pet, talking to him or her in a gentle tone, and playing with kitty with a string toy will relax your cat and you. Remember, cats can pick up on their owner’s stress, so you want to remain as relaxed as possible so kitty feels relaxed, too.
Minimize the risk of being scratched by keeping your cat’s nails trimmed. This can be accomplished at home by carefully trimming the nail tips with a pair of cat nail trimmers or by a vet tech at your veterinarian’s office. Also, provide kitty with a sisal-type scratching post at home so he/she can exercise his/her nails on a regular basis in between trims.
By following the recommendations above, getting kitty to the vet can be a much safer and positive experience for all. For seniors or owners whose cats just won’t cooperate, just call Belle Mead Animal Hospital. We can always work with you to get a technician or veterinarian to do a house call and bring your pet back to the hospital for any care that is needed.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital