The following article is courtesy of our partner, Banfield Pet Hospital. Used with permission.
Loni Seebach, CVT
As cat parents, we all know how traumatic it can be to take your cat to the vet. The hissing, the woeful meows, the defensive scratching or biting, the loss of control of the bladder or bowels — feline anxiety is just downright unpleasant for your cat and you. Most cats get stressed when it’s time for a veterinary visit. Thankfully, there are ways to help your cat relax and become confident at the vet.
- If your cat is stressed by the sight of the carrier, try bringing him or her in several days before the visit. Placing your cat on the floor and use a favored treat and/or toys to entice your cat to go into the carrier.
- Some cats might resist being put into a carrier, so carriers with removable tops make getting cats into — and out of — the carrier easier. This eliminates the need to force the cat inside, which makes the cat — and you — more relaxed.
- Use items in the carrier that have a familiar scent, e.g. a cat bed/blanket or clothing.
- Always put your cat in a carrier when going places. Cats are often startled by loud noises and fast-moving objects and may escape your grip and become injured.
- Once your feline friend has become acclimated to the carrier, you can start taking your cat on stress-free trial runs.
- While in the carrier, place your cat in the car and start it. Reassure your cat with praise and favored treats until your cat becomes more relaxed. (This may take a few sessions.)
- As your cat becomes more comfortable with being in the car, you can start taking short rides, gradually increasing the distance until you and your cat reach the veterinary hospital.
The hospital visit:
- Call your vet’s office and schedule time to just “drop by” for a mock appointment.
- Introduce your cat to the waiting area and veterinary medical team to get him/her used to the sounds and the smells of the hospital. This will get your cat to experience all of the steps of a routine visit without the physical exam.
It is important to remain calm and work at your cat’s pace, being aware of your cat’s responses.
Avoid the use of punishment, either verbal or physical, because this can have negative consequences such as higher anxiety.
These steps may not cure all of your cat’s anxiety, but with continued exposure and positive reinforcement, you can help your cat become more confident and less anxious before, during and after a visit to the vet.