Happy Cat Visits
There is a distressing trend in veterinary medicine. Dogs frequently get the care they need at both regular wellness appointments and special appointments for problems or illnesses. But cats fall through the cracks. We understand why that may happen- dogs often love the car, going to new places, and seeing new people. They get lots of attention and love while they are here, and lots of cookies as well! But cats pose a unique challenge to pet owners and to veterinarians. Often the only time a cat is in its carrier is when it is injured or sick and it is coming to the vet. The carrier is swung and bounced around, dogs stick their face up to the cage door in the waiting room, and all this before the vet even looks at them! Often times their anxiety level is through the roof before they even enter the building!
Here at TDAC, we are committed to making sure our feline patients have a more relaxed and comfortable visit with us. It is easier for the cats, it is easier for you, and it is easier for us if our kitty friends are happy here. So how do we do that?
It starts at home
A nervous cat in the clinic most likely wasn’t thrilled about getting in their carrier at home. Let’s start them out on a happier feeling by addressing the carrier.
- What carriers are best? We like plastic carriers that can have the top removed easily through latches (screws can get rusted shut, but non-rusty screws are fine!). This lets us open the carrier and examine the cat without having to pull them out the front door. We often can do the entirety of the exam and vaccines while the cat sits comfortably in the bottom half of the carrier. Look for something like this:
- Keep your carrier clean. Your feline friend will be happier about going into the carrier if it is clean and free of bugs or odors. Which leads us to our next point…
- Keep your carrier out and available all the time! If the only time Fluffy sees the inside of her carrier is when she’s sick or hurt, she is going to view that carrier with fear. If you keep her carrier out for her with the door propped open, a soft blanket inside, and maybe a special meal or treats (or cat nip) placed inside occasionally, that carrier is going to be a lot less scary and a lot more familiar to her. Make it a special place for your kitty!
In the car
- Keep the carrier secure. Most carriers (including the one pictured above) have a place to slip a lap belt through so you can buckle your kitty in. This keeps the carrier from bouncing around as you drive, and keeps them safe in case of an accident.
- Keep it covered. Some cats like to look outside, but most are frightened by all of the movement going by outside the window at unnatural speeds. Covering the carrier with a towel can help keep them calmer. It should go without saying to keep the car at a comfortable temperature- we don’t want them overheating in their covered carrier.
- Music? There is some evidence that dogs will respond well to soothing classical music. There is less research done on cats in this area, but keeping some calm music going at a low volume during your car ride can’t hurt and may just help. A company called, “Through a dog’s ear” makes canine and feline specific CDs to help calm anxious cats and dogs, so that may be worth checking out.
- Comfort on the go. A soft blanket in the carrier can help kitties feel more comfortable. There is also a stuffed animal that purrs when the head is pressed that can help some kitties self sooth. It is called a “Purr Pillow” and is available on Amazon for $9.99 (at the time of this writing).
In the clinic
- Hold them like a present, not like a suitcase. While this can be awkward, it is much easier on your cat to have the carrier held in your arms rather than carried by the carrier handle. Think about it from the cat’s perspective: would you rather be held securely or swung and bounced around? If you need help with this, please let us know and we will get an assistant to carry your kitty for you. (Obviously for the cats who come in with GIANT carriers, that won’t be possible. Arms have their limits).
- Keep that towel. Set your cat’s carrier on the bench next to you. Keep them covered with a towel to keep curious doggy noses out of their faces. If you would like, we can spritz your towel with Feliway, a feline calming pheromone, to help keep them calm. More on Feliway later.
- Special treats. We have a variety of treats available in the clinic, but if you know that your kitty goes gaga for chicken, or hot dogs, or cheese, bring in some of those special treats to help keep their interest. Don’t front load them too much- save some for their exam!
Better living through chemistry?
We have some chemical aids that may help your kitty, though every cat is different. Ask your vet if one or more of these can help your cat!
- Feliway- As noted previously, this is a synthetic calming pheromone that has been shown to help cats calm down. It comes in sprays, plug in diffusers, and special collars. We keep a giant spray bottle of it on hand to spritz on towels, tables, and ourselves. You can get a non-giant bottle at home to spray on the blanket in their carrier and/or the towel you cover the carrier with. There is virtually no downside to using feliway.
- Gabapentin- This is a drug primarily used for nerve based pain that seems to have a calming effect on some kitties. One capsule mixed with food (on an empty stomach to be sure they eat it) two hours before you put them in their carrier can just help your kitty mellow out. For really angry cats, one capsule may not be sufficient…
- Injectable sedation- Our goal is to have all our cats calm and comfortable in the clinic. But some cats are not having any of it. Injectable sedation is reserved for cats who are so stressed out in the clinic that they become a danger to themselves and others if we try to handle them. It adds on some expense, but is worth it to keep them from becoming so anxious that they try to eat an assistant. Allowing angry kitties to escalate just makes them more inclined to escalate in the future, so don’t be afraid if we recommend full sedation for your cat. A sedated kitty can get a thorough exam and any diagnostics completed quickly and easily, something that may not be possible on a cat who is angry and spitting.
We strive here to make your cat’s experience and excellent one. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help keep everyone in the family happy, and let’s get your cat’s annual wellness exam scheduled soon!