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Fur Times | April 8, 2020

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Tips on Making Your Cat’s Visit to the Vet Stress-Free

Tips on Making Your Cat’s Visit to the Vet Stress-Free
Julie Horton, DVM

Let’s face it, most cats hate going to the veterinarian. Just imagine, you’re going about your daily routine of sleeping in your favorite spot, lounging in the sun, grooming yourself, and occasionally having some food.



All of a sudden, your reverie is interrupted as you’re briskly snatched up, shoved into a carrier, taken out into the frigid streets of Manhattan, jostled around in some moving vehicle, then brought into an office with barking dogs trying to sniff you and all sorts of troubling, unknown smells.

All the while you’re wondering, Why did I have my day interrupted? I don’t like change! I don’t like noise or strangers or unfamiliar environments. Now I’m here, in this strange contraption in which I can’t see out and waiting for something, and it can’t be good…

Someone comes in the room talking to my mom and opens the box I’m in—which, incidentally, isn’t looking so bad right now. Eek, don’t take me out—I’m ok, really! An unfamiliar hand scoops me up, tries to pry open my mouth, shines a terribly bright light in my eyes, puts a cold metal thing to my chest and starts pushing on my full belly. Who does this lady think she is? I’ll give her a hiss or two and she’ll stop. Hmm, that didn’t work. I must’ve not sounded ferocious enough. I’ll show them! Big hiss, growl, another hisssssssss. Uh-oh, now here comes another stranger, and this one’s got a blanket. I try out my best ninja-cat wrestling moves, but they wrap me up with a towel over my hand. I can’t move. Exhausted, I give up. This is humiliating.

Finally, they mercifully cram me back into the dark box, there’s another bumpy ride, and I’m back at home. The ride home left just enough time for me to contemplate two things: 1) My mom has betrayed me terribly, and for that she will pay, and 2) I’m going to start my rebellion by not eating for a day or two—and maybe I’ll even pee in her bed for good measure.

The above scenario is all too typical, which is why many cat owners avoid or procrastinate taking their beloved pet to the vet. The good news is, there are many tips that can make the experience more positive for you and your cat:

First, don’t keep the cat carrier tucked away, only to be brought out just to take your animal to the vet. You want to condition your cat to its carrier—meaning, you want him comfortable in and around it. If possible, always leave the carrier out and entice your cat to crawl in and out using a feather toy or treat. This process may take several weeks, but ultimately your cat will view the carrier as a “good” place.
When a trip to the veterinarian is warranted, spray the carrier with Feliway ( approximately 30 minutes prior to travel. Feliway mimics the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as a safe place. By spraying Feliway in your cat’s carrier, it creates a state of security for your cat and may help him cope with the stress of a vet visit. This spray can be obtained at almost any pet store and is easily found online.

Book your appointment at a time when your vet’s office is quiet, or ask to be placed in an exam room immediately upon arrival. Once in the room, open the carrier and allow your cat to explore. Hopefully he will eventually come out and feel more comfortable. If not, do not force him. Allow the veterinarian to do as much of the exam in the carrier as possible, then entice him out. Sometimes it helps for the owner to hold their cat during the exam.
Upon returning home, give your pet a treat. If there is another cat at home, don’t be surprised if they both hiss or hide, as the housemate will smell the vet’s office. Spraying Feliway can decrease this sensitivity.
Reinforcing this routine with positive rewards such as treats can help graduate each experience to a more rewarding one.
Instead of waiting for your cat to become sick, focus on preventative care and annual exams. This will help detect any problems early and allow your cat to ultimately lead a more active, healthy and longer life.

If you have any concerns or questions about your particular cat or veterinarian visit, please don’t hesitate to call us at Worth Street Veterinary Center 212-257-6900. We will help make each step easier, and hopefully, stress free.

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