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Helping Lower Your Cat’s Anxiety at the Vet

We all know how anxious some animals can get when it’s time to load up and go to the vet. But this seems to be more so when it is dealing specifically with your cat. Below are some ideas to help your cat or kitten cope with vet visits.

  • Always transport the cat in a carrier or other safe container
  • Train cats to view the carrier as a safe haven or “home away from home”. Keep the carrier out in the home. Put kibbles of cat food, favorite toys or blankets inside to entice the cat into the carrier.
  • From the earliest time possible with your cat or kitten, place them in a carrier and take them with you to run errands, family or friend’s houses, etc. so that they get used to the concept of being in the car inside of a carrier and learn that neither is a bad or scary thing.
  • Frequent rides in the car in their carrier will also teach them that the carrier is not a sure sign of the vet. Too often, the only time an animal is placed in a carrier or taken in a car is to go to the vet and they associate these things together as a “bad thing”.
  • Carriers with both top and front openings are recommended. Top-loading carriers allow for stress-free placement and removal of the cat and enable them to be examined while remaining in the bottom half of the carrier.
  • Bring the cat’s favorite treats, toys and blanket. If the cat likes to be groomed, bring its favorite grooming equipment.
  • If the cat has previously had negative experiences at a veterinary hospital, the veterinarian may prescribe a short-duration anti-anxiety medication that should be given approximately one hour prior to the visit.

THE CAR RIDE

  • Take the cat for regular rides in the carrier, starting with very short ones, to places other than the veterinary hospital. Because cats may get carsick, do not feed the cat for at least an hour prior to travel.

AT THE HOSPITAL

  • Reward desired behaviors, even small ones, with treats, verbal praise, and other things the cat likes (i.e. brushing, massaging, playing).
  • Remain calm and speak in a soft voice to help the cat remain calm. If a situation is upsetting for the pet owner, the cat may do better if that person leaves the room.
  • Always allow a trained veterinary team member to handle the cat. Even the sweetest and most laid-back cat can become aroused and fearful in a strange environment. Anxiety may cause the cat to act out of character and bite or scratch.
  • Discuss techniques that might make future visits more relaxing for the pet owner and the cat.

For those last minute trips to the vet, where you don’t have the time to take care of those things listed above, try these:

  • Give your cat some alone time, some time to distress and calm down. Place the cat in a bathroom or laundry room away from other animals, children and people in the household. Place them in the room for 10-20 minutes alone with little to no sound so that they can calm themselves down.
  • Leave the carrier in the room with the cat. Sometimes, when stressed, cats will look for a small quiet and sometimes even dark place to hide. This may make it easy for you to get the cat in the carrier. You can also place some food, treats, favorite toys etc in the carrier to try to lure the cat in.
  • When ready to enter the room to place the cat in the carrier, walk in slowly and talk with a soothing quiet voice. Don’t make sudden movements or yell and scream.
  • Slowly reach out to your cat and let the cat come to your hand, when he/she does pet them a few times beforehand, refrain from just snatching them up and placing them in their carrier, this will only re-instill a negative experience for the animal.

You may try placing lavender extract on some tissue, old rag, or the animals favorite blanket or toy and placing it in the carrier roughly 30 minutes before needing to load the cat up. Studies have shown that the scent of lavender has calming affects for animals with high anxiety while in a car. It has also shown that cats who spray, spray less or less frequently and sometimes not at all while in there carrier that is accented with lavender.

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