For many cats (and their owners) a vet visit is a stressful experience. This is the main reason that a lot of cats miss out on those vital annual check-ups and vaccinations.
Ask a dog if they want a ride in the car and go to the vet, where they get a lot of attention and treats and they cannot get into the car fast enough! The complete opposite is true of cats. So how can we help you make the trip and the visit a more pleasant and positive experience?
An understanding of cat's behaviour helps.
Cats need to be in control (anyone who owns a cat knows this only too well). They like routine and they like to be able to escape and hide from anything that is unfamiliar or scary. They have a very good sense of smell and a long memory, this means anything that reminds them of a previous visit that did not go well will only add to their anxiety. Going into a cat carrier and then the car, not to mention arriving in an unfamiliar place with challenging smells and sounds does not always bring out the best in them.
Fortunately, at AdelaideVet we recognise these challenges and we have Cat Friendly Accreditation at two of our practices: Trinity Gardens and Goodwood Road. Not only do we have dedicated cat only areas (meaning no nasty dog smells) and specialised cat equipment - but our staff are trained in how to manage cats gently, patiently and with an understanding of their special needs. We even have South Australia’s first accredited fear free practitioner in Dr Kirsten Aberle at our Goodwood Road practice.
So what can you do to help your cat enjoy (or at least to tolerate) their vet visit?
Cats have an extraordinary sense of balance so car journeys can actually make them feel ill. Make sure the cat carrier is securely fastened inside the car, cover it with a towel and try to avoid times of high traffic for your appointment. Drive with care and avoid sudden stops.
Get a good cat carrier. An easily cleaned plastic one is best, preferably with either a wide front door or a top opening door. Dragging the cat through a narrow opening is not a good start to your vet visit. There are many models of carrier available and most are inexpensive and a good investment. In an emergency, a laundry basket, crate or even a sports bag will work but never use a cardboard box.
Do not let your cat travel loose in a car; this can be very dangerous for both you and your cat. Before the scheduled appointment, leave the carrier open and in the house with food in it and familiar bedding or something that smells of you. You can even use the carrier as a bed for your cat. Cats are very influenced by what we call pheromones, a type of scent that sends messages to the brain. The "familiar" pheromone is secreted by glands around the face and chin so if you rub a cloth over these areas and then rub it on the cage door they will think this is a safe place. Alternatively, you can purchase Feliway from us which is a synthetic form of this pheromone.
When you get to the clinic the receptionist will check you in and direct you to the cat only waiting area. When checking in, put the carrier on the counter or a chair, not the floor as cats like to be above anything that may be a threat. Keep the cage covered.
In the consulting room just open the cage door and let natural curiosity work so hopefully, after giving the vet some background on why you are there, the cat will slowly walk out of the cage by itself. Once they are out, be reassured that your cat will be handled slowly and gently by vets and nurses who understand and love cats.
So if your cat has not seen us for a while, book an appointment and get up to date with a health check for your cat companion!