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How You and Your Pet Can Keep Your Cool in the Vet’s Waiting Room

You’d be surprised how often a mishap or misunderstanding happens in a veterinary waiting room. Keep control of your pet — oh, and nix the baby talk.

As friendly as Benny may be, don’t let him poke his nose into cats’ cages in the veterinary waiting area. By: tbisaacs

Veterinary waiting rooms can be big or small, quiet or crazy. I can’t predict when my waiting room will be a pool of tranquility or a zoo without keepers.

Most veterinarians, I hope, are very aware of your time and try to keep your pet as calm as possible. Wait time should be short, but stuff happens. Some clients are early; some are late. The receptionist might be helping a few people at once.

It only takes 1 hound of the Baskervilles to start the ball of furry insanity rolling in the waiting room. Here’s what you can do to minimize the chances of that happening.


Have a Plan

So here are some tips:

  • Check out the waiting room before you bring your pet in. If all is quiet on the canine front, fine. But if the room looks like 101 Dalmatians on hallucinogens, check in with the reception and relax with your pet in the car for a few minutes, if possible.
  • Dog people should have dogs’ leashes firmly attached, and if it’s one of those darned retractable leashes, it should be locked. The waiting room is the time to keep that dog “on a short leash.”
  • Felines and other little furry creatures should be in a familiar and safe carrier.

What Not to Use:

  • Pillowcases: A cat in a bag is not safe.
  • Cardboard boxes with the little kitty poking out of the top (we call this “jack-cat-in-a-box”) is a bad idea.
  • Laundry baskets: These are unwieldy and usually don’t have a secure top.
  • A person’s body: Your cat may like being held at home, but walking into a room filled with scary sounds and large canine creatures is a scenario ripe for a kitty flight.
The safest way to bring a cat to the vet is in a familiar carrier. By: donabelandewen

Space ‘Em Out

Do not let your pet approach another pet without asking first.

Many people believe all creatures should run free and follow their dreams, but not in my waiting room. Canine noses should stay away from cat carriers, ladies’ skirts and other canine noses. All 4 canine feet should remain on the floor at all times. No jumping. Lap dogs can be in your lap but not in other laps without express permission.

Keep your cat carrier on a seat with you, for canine etiquette is not a sure thing. Bobo the bassett’s human may get distracted. Your cat will not appreciate Bobo’s slobbering face in her cat carrier door. Those cute, droopy bassett ears and eyes are adorable to us but can be the stuff to fuel Persian paranoia.

After your appointment, put your pet back in the car if it is safe to do so, making it clear to the receptionist that you will be right back to check out. Then you can finish up at the front desk without having to concern yourself with controlling your pet. We also have a cleat on our front desk for tying up dog leashes, but not all practices have such a mechanism.

For the most part, these animals play it pretty cool in a veterinary clinic’s waiting room:


Keep Calm

Your pet feels your stress, so try to project calmness in the waiting room, even if you feel a little tense or anxious about the visit.

And — please — no baby talk. For some reason, some people think they are calming down their pet with it. In loud, high-pitched toddler babble, I hear, “It’s OK, Munchie-poo! Don’t be scared! It won’t hurt! Mommy loves you!”

By now, Munchie is probably thinking 1 of 3 things:

  1. “Please be quiet, you crazy quack. I’m fine.”
  2. “Well, I was calm until you started screeching like a banshee.”
  3. “I’m so embarrassed. Next time, drop me off at the corner and wait for me there.”

Although most of these suggestions seem like common sense, you’d be surprised how often a mishap, intrusion or misunderstanding can occur in the waiting room. Boundaries should be respected at the vet’s office.

Mindful veterinary practices are all about lessening stress, but we need your help to keep your pet (and you) as free from anxiety as possible.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 11, 2018.