Cats are quite the homebodies and have their daily routines outlined pretty well over the years. So, scooping them up and taking them to the veterinary clinic is definitely not on their agenda. Some preparations and tips can help you decrease their anxiety.
The first tips involve the dreaded carrier. Consider the size – not too big for them to slide around and for you to carry with one hand. But not too small with a narrow door causing difficulty getting them in and out without trauma. Consider the type – having several doors for access helps give options to prevent stress. Hard carriers are more sturdy providing safety in the car. Another advantage over the soft carrier is the ability to keep urine from leaking in the car. (I learned that the hard way). Most hard carriers come apart which is an advantage in the exam room, but choose one with clips versus nuts and screws. Consider leaving the carrier in their favorite room or spot instead of storing it. Put a blanket, a toy and a small bowl of treats in the back, leaving the door open. Entertaining them with a feathered teaser through the hole can encourage them in to explore. Occasionally, close the door and even carry them around the house and let them back out a few times. When they need to travel, place a potty pad in the bottom and their blanket inside. Placing a blanket over the top can help with anxiety in the car and keep them warm. If you have stored the carrier, take it out several days ahead.
Next, tips for the waiting room. Keep the carrier up on your lap or right beside you to avoid the scents and visual stimuli at the floor level. Turn the door toward you to avoid chance encounters with other pets. You can ask to be put in an exam room right away if your cat’s anxiety is building.
Now, tips for the exam room. For those that are not feisty, let them come out on their own to sniff around. For those that are more comfortable in the carrier, put them up on the exam table. Let the assistant know how your cat reacted at the last visit when getting their weight and vitals. They may bring a towel sprayed with a natural pheromone to help neutralize smells and make them more comfortable. They may also decide to wait for the doctor to get the vitals during the physical exam. Often taking the top of the carrier off is easiest to avoid pulling them out and gives them a safe place in the bottom half with their blanket.
Lastly, tips when arriving back home. Place them in a quiet place away from other curious pets. Remember, they smell like the clinic and may be treated like an invader until the smells dissipate. Let them adjust on their own back into their routine.
Dr. Carla Edwards
Apple Valley Veterinary Clinic