How to Minimize Stress for your Cat’s Vet Visit
Your cat’s vet visit can be a stressful endeavor for all parties involved. Every step from getting your cat in a proper carrier to having them relax in the room with the doctor has potential to go wrong and make your cat react negatively. Here is some helpful information to make your cat’s vet visit as stress free as possible.
Using your carrier properly
The first obstacle in getting your cat to the veterinarian is the carrier. It may seem like an impossible feat, but your kitty can be trained to like his or her carrier. This is not difficult, but it will not happen instantly. Having the right type of carrier is instrumental to success. A hard carrier with 2 options for opening it is the best choice for cats. Most have a door on the front, and a door on the top. Others have clips or screws so the carrier can be taken apart easily. If the cat becomes reluctant to come out at the veterinary clinic, the carrier can be taken apart, so the cat does not have to be forcefully removed or dumped out.
Many cats head for the hills as soon as the carrier is retrieved from the basement or garage where it is stored. In order for your cat to become comfortable with it, it needs to become part of the door.
Follow these steps to get your kitty acquainted with the carrier:
- Leave it out in your cat’s favorite room with the door opened (or removed)
- Place comfortable bedding, toys and catnip inside
- Place your cat’s food bowl close to the carrier and move it slightly closer each day until you are feeding your cat inside of it
- Randomly throw treats and toys into the carrier to encourage your cat to enter it
Some cats will begin sleeping inside the carrier, even within a few days. Once Kitty becomes used to the carrier, you can take short drives in the car to accustom your cat to the motion. Make these trips longer each time. If your cat gets car sick, you can withhold food and water for a few hours before your trip. Keep the carrier covered with a blanket to reduce your cat’s ability to see the motion. This will also help keep him more calm in the waiting room at the veterinary clinic.
On appointment day, it is important that you get your cat to willingly enter the carrier, instead of forcing him inside. Tempt him to enter by tossing in treats, catnip, or toys. You can also use calming products like Feliway to help with stress. Spray it inside the carrier about 30 minutes before you put your kitty into it.
What happens at the animal hospital?
After your (hopefully short) wait in the lobby, you will be shown to an exam room. The veterinarian or technician will ask some questions about your cat’s medical history and lifestyle. While this is happening, your cat should be allowed to get used to the exam room for a few minutes, before any poking and prodding can begin. The veterinarian will watch your cat move around the room, in order to ascertain information about his overall health, and to help gauge how stressed he may be.
The next thing that happens is the physical examination. The veterinarian will examine your cat from nose to tail. The eyes will be examined with an ophthalmoscope to check for vision problems. The ears will be checked with an otoscope to look for infection or parasites. The mouth and teeth will be checked thoroughly for fractures, cavities, tumors, and periodontal disease.
The hair coat and skin will be examined for external parasites, lumps and bumps, infections and other irritation. The doctor will use a stethoscope to listen for abnormalities with the lungs and heart, and will palpate the abdominal organs. The doctor or technician will weigh your cat, and will take his temperature.
If your cat is not feeling well, testing will be done to find the cause for his illness. Blood tests can check for problems with the internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas and gall bladder. Blood testing also looks for evidence of infection, hormonal conditions, anemia, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. Testing a urine sample along with the blood can reveal even more about your cat’s hydration and kidney function, and can identify urinary tract issues and some types of poisoning.
Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest can determine the size and shape of the heart and its surrounding blood vessels. They can find fluid or other changes in the lungs. X-rays of the abdomen can check for enlargement of any of the internal organs, foreign material in the digestive system, tumors, bladder stones, and many other conditions. In some cases, x-rays only give an indication about what is going on, and more detailed imaging, such as an ultrasound, is needed to diagnose the problem.
Once your veterinarian has the results of these tests, they can provide a diagnosis – or a few possible diagnoses in some cases – and recommend a course of treatment. Many minor illnesses and injuries can be treated at home, where your kitty can recover comfortably in his own environment.
What happens if my cat needs to be admitted to the hospital?
If your kitty needs to stay in the hospital for treatment, he will be placed in a kennel with enough room for food and water, comfortable bedding, and a litter box. Depending on his illness, his leg may need to be shaved for placement of an IV catheter, in order to give fluids and medications. Additional procedures such as surgery may be needed for more serious conditions.
Just as when you visit the doctor, there will probably be paperwork to sign, allowing your veterinarian to proceed with treatment. Your pet’s doctor will keep you updated on your cat’s progress throughout his stay. You should be encouraged to call and check on your pet whenever you feel the need, and visits may be allowed in some cases. Each hospital has its own policies for visitation, so it is important to find out if and when visits are allowed. Some cats become more stressed when their owner leaves after a visit, so be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian.
To make your cat feel more secure, you can leave a shirt or blanket with your scent on it for your kitty to snuggle with. Some veterinary clinics prefer that you bring your cat’s regular diet for him to eat while in the hospital, as cats can be very finicky about eating new foods when they are stressed. Always check with your pet’s veterinarian before offering your kitty treats or food from home during your visit.
Once your cat is well enough to go home, you should have a discharge appointment with a veterinarian or technician. They will explain everything that was done, and will go over the home care your pet needs. This includes what and how to feed, when and how to give prescribed medications and other treatments, things to watch for as your pet recovers, and when to schedule a follow-up exam.