Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog
A Relaxed Cat is a Happy Cat! Reducing Your Cat’s Stress for Vet Visits
Cats are excellent predators, but they are also prey for many species in nature, so they tend to hide signs of illness until they are no longer able to. This means you may not be able to tell when your cat is becoming unhealthy, and is why a yearly exam (or twice-yearly, for older cats) is so important to his or her well-being. In addition, regular vaccines and dewormings are important for cats, who may be exposed to infectious diseases and parasites, some of which can be transmitted to humans.
We all know it can be stressful to get a cat to the veterinarian’s office — SO stressful in fact that we (consciously or subconsciously) avoid doing it. We’re here to tell you we understand, and want to work with you to help make annual exams much easier on both of you. Continue reading for tips on how to decrease the stress associated with a vet visit for both you and your cat.
Cats develop a fear of their carriers because they nearly always lead to something unpleasant (a ride in the car and a new, scary place). New environments may be exciting for you, but cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need lots of time to adjust to the unfamiliar – so any new place can be very stressful.
- Clean the carrier thoroughly (especially if you have used it for a previous cat) and keep it in the living area, with the door open and comfy bedding inside. Keep it out for at least a few weeks initially so the cat becomes used to it.
- Feed or give treats/catnip in the carrier.
- For future appointments, try to bring the carrier out several days ahead of time so your cat becomes desensitized to it again.
- Buckle the carrier in the back seat and cover if helpful; many cats do better if they cannot see the “world whizzing by.”
- If you get your cat as a kitten, try to take him for frequent car rides – this can make a WORLD of difference in helping him be less stressed in the car in the future.
- Try to get a carrier with a removable top if possible so we can get your cat in and out with less stress once at the clinic.
In the Clinic
We are a certified “Cat Friendly Practice”, which means we have been through specific training in feline stress reduction, and have made certain physical and procedural adjustments to minimize stress on our sensitive feline patients:
- There is a feline-only waiting area that is out of the line of sight from dogs.
- We will make every possible effort to get you into the feline-specific exam room quickly where it is quieter, and “happy cat pheromone” is flowing from a plug-in diffuser.
- We prefer for cats to exit the carrier on their own (some do!) but for those who won’t, we have other low-stress ways of coaxing them out.
- Cat handling is as gentle and quiet as possible, and in our feline-only exam room there are climbing shelves and hiding boxes which help many cats adjust.
Back at Home
If you have other cats, there may be a stress response (hissing, even attacking) when the patient returns, even if they are usually tolerant of one another. It may be helpful to let your cat out in a bedroom (with water and a litterbox) with the door closed and let everyone readjust for a few hours before official reintroductions. A Feliway diffuser can also be helpful in minimizing stress.
Please visit the American Association of Feline Practitioners website for more information on Cat Friendly Practices. Call or email us with any questions about your cat or to schedule an appointment.