“I love taking my cat to the vet. It’s so easy and fun!” Said no sane person, ever. If you don’t know how to take your cat to the vet the right way, it usually starts with a game of hide-and-seek and a wrestling match, followed by an epic display of hissing and howling and ends in tears. And then you get in the car. Vet time is the only time I’m glad Sparrow refuses to speak English.
A recent survey of humans owned by cats revealed that two-thirds of us take our cats to the vet less than once per year, due in part to this ‘feline resistance’. The cats of the world have spoken, and they say they hate going to the vet. Regular check-ups are important for keeping your asthma cat healthy and monitoring medications, so these should not be skipped, no matter how much the kitty protests. Emergency visits may be necessary from time to time as well, so it’s important that you know how to take your cat to the vet in the calmest, coolest way possible.
Singing the Cat Carrier Blues
Your cat should never travel ‘free range’ in your car, so you will need to invest in a good cat carrier. Getting your cat into it is a whole different kettle of fish. Sometimes even a kettle of fish isn’t enough of an enticement if your cat associates the carrier only with vet visits. You can begin cat carrier training by leaving it out so your cat sees it as part of the furniture rather than a torture device. I keep mine tucked away beside the desk in my study, with the door open. It has a couple of my old t-shirts in it and I regularly throw treats in there for Sparrow to find. It’s actually one of his favourite places to sleep!
- Invest in a good, sturdy carrier – plastic is best as it’s easy to clean and something that opens at the top will make getting kitty in and out much
nicer for both of you.
- Size matters – your cat should be able to stand up and turn around inside the carrier, as well as sit and lie down comfortably.
- One cat per carrier – if you have multiple cats in your home, they’ll each need their own carrier.
- Keep the carrier out and accessible for your cat and make it enticing by throwing in a blanket, toys and treats. This will help kitty to understand that the carrier is a safe haven rather than a prison.
How to Take Your Cat to The Vet – it’s The Journey, Not The Destination
Most cats hate being in the car. The car moves. The car growls. The car is unpredictable and the car ends with some stranger poking and prodding, then the reward for this is…more car.
Some cats will never be ok with the car ride, but most will get used to the drill with a bit of practice. It’s a good idea to do a bit of car training that has nothing to do with the vet, but start small so you don’t freak the kitty out and cause an asthma attack. Driving for 5 minutes and then returning home to treats and rewards is a good start and you can increase the length of these excursions over time.
- Always lift and move the carrier gently – you have precious cargo in there!
- Secure the carrier in the car – in the footwell, or on a seat with a seatbelt so it can’t move. Place a folded towel on the seat to keep the carrier level.
- If your cat is really freaking out, covering the carrier with a towel or blanket might help to keep him calm. I like to use Rescue Remedy to help Sparrow chill out – click here to check out my review
- Drive carefully and stay cool – your cat will sense any fear or stress from you.
- Talk to your cat in a reassuring voice, play soft music and avoid loud noises.
- When you arrive at the clinic, maintain your cool. Don’t rush to get the carrier out of the car, and carry your boxed up furball with care.
The Waiting Room of Doom
The vet’s waiting room can be an exceptionally scary place for cats, particularly if they’re in the middle of a bad asthma moment. Add in curious dogs, growling cats and anxious humans and kitty could become very nervous.
You can get around some of this by using a cat-only or cat-friendly clinic, but if that isn’t possible at least look for a clinic that has a separate waiting area for cats and dogs.
- Find a quiet place to wait – away from the dogs, and preferably with a raised shelf or table to place your cat carrier on.
- Talk to your cat in a reassuring voice and remain calm.
- Keep the carrier covered with a blanket or towel to cut out visual contact with other animals.
- If your cat gets very stressed, a pheromone spray can be used in the carrier before you load your cat into it. This is a synthetic form of the scent cats rub on things and people they like and it is calming to most felines.
The Doctor is in!
I’ve never met a vet who wasn’t calm and professional in handling my little Sparrow. Vets are wonderful people who do great work, but naturally, some are more experienced with cats than others. A cat-only or Accredited Cat-Friendly Clinic is the best option, but as long as your cat gets professional care and you have a good rapport with your vet, any clinic is good.
- Bedside manner is important – most vets will spend a few minutes just chatting casually with you and interacting gently with kitty before starting the examination. This helps to break the ice and put everybody at ease. If your vet doesn’t do this – ask!
- Don’t be afraid to switch clinics if you feel you’re not getting an adequate level of care.
- Your cat is going to hate this part – being poked and prodded by a stranger is never fun, especially if you’re a cat and you don’t feel well. Talk reassuringly to the patient to help ease his discomfort.
- Ask questions – any visit to the vet is a great opportunity to gather more information or discuss your concerns. Come prepared with a list of things you’d like to talk about.
- Just in case your cat needs to stay overnight (or longer) at the vet, bring along something from home to stay with kitty. A piece of your clothing with your scent on is best as your cat likely won’t feel like playing with a toy, but will want something familiar and comforting around.
Between vet visits, it’s important to keep an eye on kitty’s health. Asthmatic cats are delicate little flowers who need special attention, so watch out for any signs of illness and don’t be afraid to call your vet if you have any concerns. Follow any visit to the vet with a massive amount of love, praise and treats for your kitty and one day…maybe…he might not hate it that much.
How do you go taking your cat to the vet? Share your success (or horror) stories below in the comments…