By: Dr. McCafferty, Chief of Staff
If you are someone who gets stressed or overwhelmed at the idea of taking your cat to the veterinarian – you are not alone. As a veterinarian and cat owner, I can attest to the fact that even the calmest kitty can become stressed by a trip to the vet. Carriers, car trips, loud noises and unfamiliar smells are just some things that can boost a cat’s stress level.
While cats have a reputation for being independent and less needy than dogs, they do require much of the same care as their canine counterparts. Vaccinations, dental care, spay/neuter procedures, proper diet and regular checkups are all part of responsible cat care. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make the experience less challenging for you, your cat and the staff at your local vet.
Acclimate to the Carrier. It can be very helpful to leave your cat’s carrier out and about in your home. That way your feline friend can explore the carrier at their leisure, perhaps even playing on or in it. Cats are naturally curious, and your pet will likely want to check out this strange new object. That way, when it comes time to head into the carrier for a visit to the vet, they might not be as panicked about an unfamiliar space.
Take A Practice Car Ride. If you are already aware that car trips unsettle your kitty, go for a practice ride with your cat safely in the carrier. Take a few loops around the block, then return home and let your pet out of the carrier. This can greatly reduce stress and help to disassociate panic and stress with car rides. Trust me, a calm cat is far easier for you and your vet to handle.
Come Hungry. We want your cat to come hungry! Not only will that help if your cat gets motion sickness in the car, but it will also allow us to give your cat a few treats during the veterinary visit.
Soothing Cat Spray. Feliway spray is a man-made version of the pheromone your cat deposits when he or she rubs their cheek on your leg or furniture. This substance is a signal that cats use to mark objects in their “territory”. The smell tells the cat that they are in a safe place. We recommend that you spray Feliway in your cat’s carrier to help make it “feel” more familiar and safe.
Here at Huffard Animal Hospital, we have a separate reception area for Cats Only. We have several Feliway sprayed handkerchiefs in this reception area to help our feline guests relax. We also have two feline only exam rooms with soothing music and more Feliway pheromones to help create the most stress-free experience for your feline friend. If you are still having difficulty after all of this, we are happy to discuss alternatives such as sedation. Gabapentin is a sedative that many of our veterinarians use with cats, as it is highly effective in reducing fear and anxiety. Gabapentin does not cause full sedation, but does cause a cat to be a little woozy or slow. Give us a call at 410.768.3620 or click here to schedule an appointment online to further discuss. See you soon!