Few things strike fear in the hearts of cat parents like a trip to the vet — and the result, too often, is that our cats get inadequate healthcare. In fact, cat advocacy group the Catalyst Council estimates that cats go to the vet less than half as often as dogs.
USA Today pet columnist Sharon L. Peters interviewed the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center’s Kristen Collins about how to keep cats calm during vet trips.
Collins offered these tips, all of which will be easy with a kitten (“With an adult cat,” Peters writes, “you follow all the same procedures, but you must go much slower”):
- As early as possible in your cat’s life, get him used to different people and environments.
- Use a cat harness and leash to go out into the world, and give your cat treats and playtime in each new environment.
- Take practice trips to the vet once or twice a week — your cat won’t be examined, but you’ll give him treats and let him get used to the place. (See more about keeping your cat calm in the car here.)
- Make the cat carrier a positive place — leave it open all the time, filled with comfy bedding. Feed your cat in it and stick treats inside it often. (See more about keeping your cat calm in his carrier here.)
- Get your cat used to being handled the way the vet will handle her. While you’re at home and for just a few seconds to start, get your cat used to being scruffed, having her hindquarters handled and lying on her back, so those won’t feel scary during a vet visit.
Despite your best efforts, your cat may never totally relax on trips to the vet — but even a slight decrease in stress can make a big difference for you and your cat.
Practice and patience worked wonders for my cat Mojo. Today, Mojo gets in and out of the carrier easily and can even survive a short car ride to the vet without needing a bath afterward.