As cool as cats are, they sometimes lose that cool when they are due for a veterinary visit.
Whether it’s general jitters, strange smells and sounds, weird people picking them up or something you can’t put your finger on, some cats just can’t handle the whole experience.
If your cat freaks out at the sight of the vet clinic, try using these tips to make the trip easier.
1. Start at Home
Chasing a cat around the house and grabbing him from under the bed, getting scratched and stuffing him into a frightening carrier? You’ve already lost the battle, my friend — because it should not be a battle.
Help the kitty with a friendly carrier with multiple openings that comforts him. Put treats and food in the open carrier for a whole week leading up to the vet visit. Use these tactics for any car trip or whenever the cat carrier is used.
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2. Pick a Friendly Cat Vet
Cat-only practices are great — their comfortable and quiet waiting rooms are pretty helpful. If your vet hospital is small and doesn’t have a separate cat waiting area, ask to be put into an exam room or a quiet space as soon as you come in.
If you must wait for your appointment, your cat may be happier with you in the car. Ask the staff to fetch you when they are ready for your visit.
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3. Cat Treats and Toys
Put your cat’s favorite treats and toys in the carrier at home well before you visit the vet. A vet who is sensitive to cat behavior will also have treats of different types in the exam room.
This is one time when we can spoil your kitty with feline junk food.
4. Friendly Surfaces and Blankies
A cat-sensitive vet will not place your cat on a scary steel surface. If the vet isn’t so understanding, ask for a soft blanket or towel.
Another tactic is to leave the frightened cat in her carrier. I have done entire exams with the cat remaining in the carrier as long as it has a top opening.
Veterinarians sometimes use synthetic pheromones, such as Feliway (affiliate link), to improve relaxation in cats during the visit. Available as diffusers, sprays for surfaces, carriers, blankets and more, these can also be used at home.
6. Medications and Supplements
Some cats may never have a happy vet visit. Therefore, medications must be dispensed by your veterinarian and taken before the vet visit.
Over-the-counter supplements such as Zylkene, Solliquin and others may help the anxious cat.
7. Is a Nail Trim Really a Priority?
Many people ask us to trim their cats’ nails, often because they cannot do it at home. In a fearful or aggressive cat, a nail trim can be the most offensive part of a veterinary exam.
Often, an anxious cat is ramping up during the visit — no matter how sensitive the veterinary staff is to the anxiety and fear. So I prefer to have the cat come in later with drugs or supplements on board and have the techs gently wrap the kitty in a blanket and get the nails done.
Yikes…this cat is simply not having it:
8. Is a Multiple-Cat Visit a Good Idea?
Many people have more than one cat, and a multiple-cat visit may be easier on the person bringing the cats in. Often, this is great for easygoing cats as well.
But for the cat who hates the vet or doesn’t get along with his buddy, even at home, the multiple-cat visit can be stressful. They may hear their housemate screaming in the other carrier, adding to the stress.
A multiple-cat visit also takes longer. In some cases, it’s better to do separate visits.
9. Speak Up If You’re Unhappy
There are all kinds of vets, veterinary technicians and cats. If you don’t like how your cat is being handled or your cat is more upset than normal, speak up — a good practice will be sensitive to your needs.
What if your cat is normally fine at the vet, but there was a dog howling in the back? Or it was thundering on the ride? Or a new smell set her off? Or she just didn’t like the technician or the vet? You have the right to say your cat is acting stranger than usual. Again, good vets will listen.
In any of the situations I mentioned above, try to work with your Mr. Wild at home before any vet visit. It can help a lot.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Aug. 10, 2016.