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Fear Free Visits With Your Cat

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Posted on 12-16-2015

Fear Free Visits With Your Cat

So you think you have a ‘bad cat’!  Bad cats are not as rare as one might think and they’re not something to stress about.  Most times your cat isn’t nearly as bad as others that we’ve seen.  Our own included. And really they are not “bad” at all, but rather do not understand what is going on and therefore act out.

I have a “bad cat”.  But he’s only bad when he’s at the vet.  Even then, it’s not so much as him being ‘bad’ but more so that he is utterly terrified.  And being the man of the house, he can’t let on that he’s scared so he lashes out.  Not to mention shrill shrieks that he lets out, sometimes before we’ve even touched him.   This is why it’s so important to understand why your cat acts how he does when at the Vet; to understand how cats like routine and the familiar.  Yes, my male cat goes absolutely berserk when out of the house and at the vet, but this is also the same cat that wouldn’t eat out of a dish for two days because it wasn’t his ‘usual’ dish and he didn’t trust it.  This is also the same cat that has an anxiety attack when something is in his spot on the couch and he can’t have his 12 hour nap and will pace and chirp until we move it and he can lie down.  Despite the fact that the entire rest of the couch is void of people and/or objects, *that* is his spot and he can’t sleep if there is something in it.  It’s tragic really.

Cats are creatures of habit.  Obsessively compulsively so and I find it fascinating.

There are measures that we can take to make the transition from home to clinic to exam and back to home easier.  It can be easier for both you and your feline friend.  Please don’t mistake me, I am not a doctor.  Beyond working in a Vet Clinic in Etobicoke at the front desk, I am simply a cat owner like a lot of you, who has had to navigate her way through bringing her cat to the vet and dealing with his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde mood swings, so as to find a way that works best for us.   There have been countless trial and error attempts and honestly, I’m still perfecting it.   These suggestions might not work for you, or you might tweak it so that it does.  If you have suggestions that you’ve found have worked, please share.  PLEASE!  There are never too many ways to make things easier for pets and owners to come in for visits to the vet.  Here are a few of my ideas in which may help to make your next visit with us a little easier.

Feliway.  This is a cat owner’s best friend.  It is a pheromone spray that helps to comfort cats in stressful situations.  It is a synthetic replica of their own pheromone that reassures cats that their environment is safe and familiar.  Have you ever seen your cat rubbing his/her chin on the doorway?  Your computer?  The leg of a table?  That is a sign of your cat being happy and comfortable and scenting the area so that they know it’s a ‘safe zone’ for them.  Feliway is designed to be similar to that scent they leave behind them.  I spray my cat’s carrier the night before and then again about 20 minutes before I coax him in.   At the clinic, we then will spray the exam area as well and I’ve found this works WONDERS.

Previously if I had to bring Jack (my cat) in for any treatment, he would work himself up so much that he would board for a few days so as to get him more comfortable in the clinic and then we were able to examine him.  Somewhat.  Recently I brought him in and not only was he less anxious and calm, but he let the doctor do a full cat examination, take blood and urine and do a blood pressure test, all in one visit.  Now, by the time we were doing the blood pressure testing and it was getting near the end he was getting antsy and began to get cranky.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a miracle worker to the extent that he was without complaint.  That takes a special kind of cat that Jack definitely isn’t.  But where previously he was near impossible to examine, Feliway made a world of difference and afterwards he was even purring.  I can’t tell you the relief I felt knowing he was much less stressed than normal for him.

My second suggestion is keeping your carrier visible and accessible.  I find that if my cats can go into and out of their carriers at their own pace and of their own will, it makes transporting them easier.  They associate it with a comfortable place as I keep blankets and towels in them at all times.  Sometimes, my cats will sleep in them, so when I have to put them in to transport them to and from the vet, they’re not as anxious about being confined.  They will rub their scent on it, marking it as a ‘safe place’ for future visits and that alleviates at least some of the stress that comes when the carrier is only being brought out when they have to go to the vet.  Putting treats and toys into it also helps.  As does one of my tee shirts or blankets so that when we are somewhere unfamiliar, they have that scent of ‘home’ and it is much less stressful for them.

Lastly, your anxiety levels can be a big factor.  If they sense your anxiety, fear and frustration, that will sometimes put them on edge as well.  If you are calm, they will stay calm.  I used to chase my cats around to try and wrangle them into the carrier.  It only succeeded in working everyone up.  Now I just pretend like nothing is going on and pick them up for a cuddle.  I leave enough time so that I can pet them for a bit, brush them to relax them and they go into the carrier much easier.

And without tears.  Oh the tears.

Don’t forget, our Etobicoke cat hospital is always here if you need pointers or suggestions on making your cat’s trip to visit us easier.  The outside world is stressful enough some days, if we can alleviate that just a little then we know we’ve done our part.


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