By Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, founder of the Northern Illinois Cat Clinic
Obviously, it’s important to bring your kitty to the veterinarian––unfortunately, most cats do not enjoy the trip. There are, however, little things we can do as pet parents to make the visit to the vet more acceptable to our feline companions.
First, we need to understand how our cat feels. Because they are creatures of habit, cats have a very strict routine and like to keep it that way. Your cat’s carrier, the veterinary clinic, and your car are certainly not part of this routine. The goal is to help your kitty become as comfortable as possible with these things. Here’s how to do it:
Getting your cat used to the carrier
––Leave the carrier out in the open to let your cat get used to it. As it becomes part of the landscape, it will not be nearly as frightening to her.
––Make the carrier comfortable. Put a big fluffy towel in the cat carrier so if she chooses to go inside it will be warm and cozy.
––Put treats, toys, and catnip in the carrier. This will make the carrier smell good and there will be rewards inside for when your cat investigates.
The process of getting your cat used to the carrier may be an extended one. It will most likely take weeks to months. After your cat is not so afraid, take her for a car ride when she’s in the carrier. The first trip in the car could just be to the car. Bring your kitty out to the car in the carrier and set him or her in the back seat. Offer treats, rubs and soft verbal praises. The next trip a week later should be a short one around the block. Make these weekly car rides part of your cat’s routine.
What you can do at the vet
––First and foremost, remain calm. When we get worked up, our kitties can tell. The more nervous we are, the more nervous they will be.
––Cover your cat’s carrier until you get to the examination room to help hr relax. The less scary things to look at the better.
––Bring your cat’s favorite treats. Offer them at 5–10 minute intervals during the vet visit.
––Let your cat explore the examination room if she wants to. Give her a chance to look around instead of clutching her in your lap.
Coming back home to a multi-cat household
––Leave your cat in the carrier to see how the other cats react. If, after 15 minutes, everything seems fine, go ahead and let your kitty out of the carrier.
––If the other cats seem upset, isolate the cat coming home for 24 hours. Make sure to offer food, water and a litter box. If, after this time, the cats still seem uncomfortable with one another, you may need to make a slow reintroduction.
Just remember cats recognize other cats by smell and behavior. When your cat comes home from the vet, both of these factors will have changed.
Following these recommendations can help make the trip to the vet less stressful on both you and your cat.
Dr. Rebecca Schmidt founded the Northern Illinois Cat Clinic in 1982, a full-service, feline exclusive veterinary clinic located at 295 Peterson in Libertyville, Illinois. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has recently certified the Northern Illinois Cat Clinic as a Cat-Friendly Practice. Learn more about the Northern Illinois Cat Clinic online or follow them on Facebook.