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Posted on 11-09-2017

I have many clients who absolutely dread the annual chore of dragging their cat out of the house, scratching and crying all the way, to visit their veterinarian.  I know of a few humans who also tend to avoid seeing their doctor but since I am the veterinarian, I will keep my comments to pertain to the furry four legged variety!  This does not have to be such a dreaded adventure and we have found some of the following suggestions to help to get your feline more accustomed to the visit.

First of all, make the pet transport carrier a good thing.  Several weeks before the visit, get the carrier out and allow your cat to smell it, climb on it and even go inside.  You can reward your cat’s curiosity by offering his or her favorite treat inside.  Make this a “treat chamber”.  Anytime the cat shows any interest in the carrier a reward occurs. 

Secondly, schedule your visit during quieter hours at the veterinary practice.  End of day is usually the worst time to visit as it seems to be noisier and more hectic towards the end of the business day.  Ask if they have a cat friendly day or can advise the best time to come. 

Thirdly, use of pheromones such as Feliway can be sprayed or wiped inside of the carrier prior to leaving the house.  These products leave a sense of well-being in the cat.  It is not a medication and is safe for all cats, regardless of age.  Many veterinary practices spray this into the room or onto a towel to place on the exam table upon arrival of an anxious cat.

Fourth, keep the travel time minimal and avoid visual stimulation during the ride.  Place the carrier on the floor board or cover the carrier with a light sheet to allow airflow but not allow the cat to see the world passing by during the drive.  If your cat absolutely refuses to go into a small carrier, I have seen them arrive very comfortably in a pillow case or clothes hamper that is securely fastened closed.

Fifth, ask if you can allow your cat to wander about the room while waiting on the veterinarian.  Many cats will calm down once they have investigated the room for themselves.  I am not opposed to allowing my patients to amble about the room until I have done all the necessary paperwork and asked all the pertinent questions.  If your cat is willing to accept treats when stressed (fewer do than dogs), bring those along as well.

If all else fails, medication for anxiety can often be prescribed for future visits.  We save this as a last resort as positive reinforcement training will last a lifetime in many cases and medication may not even be necessary.

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