How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Cats

Routine vet visits are vital to your cat’s health, but they can be stressful for you and your cat. Here’s why regular†checkups are important and how to make vet visits less stressful for your cats.

One of the greatest challenges I faced when coordinating the Seniors for Seniors Foster Program at a local shelter was getting cats into carriers for transport to their foster homes or for health check-ups. Rides in the car were no fun either when the most stressed cats howled, hissed, defecated or threw up in their carriers.

My friend, Ann, has seven cats and planning trips to the vet is always quite an ordeal. She has to carefully plan where to stage the cat carriers and which cat to shut in which room. Itís always stressful for the cats and not much fun for my friend either.

“No cat likes being taken to strange places and handled by strangers,” Ann said. “Some of them deal with it better than others, a lot of it is just personality. I think using a sturdy cat carrier that they canít get out of is probably the most important thing.”

A†2013 study by Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) found that 52 percent of cats in the U.S. had not been taken to the veterinarian in the past year for necessary check-ups. The study also found that only half as many cats receive annual exams as dogs.

This discrepancy doesnít mean that cats arenít loved as much as dogs. Instead, the study showed that cats donít have regular health checkups, because their owners anticipate unpleasant experiences while taking their cats to the veterinary clinic.

Taking a Cat to the Vet in a Carrier

Why Routine Vet Visits are Vital to Cats Health

Routine vet visits are vital in helping your cat live a long healthy life according to the AAFP. Veterinary experts recommend preventive care check-ups a minimum of once a year and more frequently for senior cats and those with a chronic condition. Here are some of the top reasons experts at the AAFP give for taking cats to the vet:

  • One human year is equal to four cat years, and a lot can affect a catís health in that time.
  • Cats are masters at hiding illness. Veterinarians are trained to spot subtle signs that something is wrong and can detect many problems before they become difficult and expensive to treat.
  • More than 50 percent of cats are obese. Just a few extra pounds can lead to diabetes, heart and kidney disease. Veterinarians can offer input on helping cats lose weight.
  • Periodontal disease is considered the most prevalent disease in cats 3 years of age and older, which may lead to infection, loss of appetite and pain.

Overcoming the Hurdle of Getting Cats to the Vet

Probably the biggest hurdle in getting cats to the vet is getting them into a carrier. In a 2012 AVMA Newsletter on cat-friendly practices, Ilona Rodan, a veterinarian at the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, WI said when cats are comfortable in their carriers veterinary visits are much more pleasant for cats and owners.

This, she said in the article, “results in fewer upset cats and less fear-associated scratching or biting. It allows us to educate our clients in a calmer environment, and most importantly allows cats to get the healthcare they need and deserve.”

Cat in a Pet Carrier

How to Make Vet Visits Less Stressful for Cats

Here are tips from the AAFP on how to reduce the stress of vet visits for your cat:

1. Understand your catís behavior.

The carrier, car and animal hospital are unfamiliar to your cat. Itís important that you stay calm and respect your catís need for time to become familiar with new situations, people and places.

2. Help your cat get comfortable with the carrier.

Keep†it out in a room at home where your cat spends a lot of time. Place familiar soft bedding inside the carrier as well as treats or toys. Remember it may take some time before your cat enters the carrier voluntarily so be patient.

3. Choose the right carrier.

The best type of carrier for cats is one that is hard sided and opens from the top, the middle and the front. Being able to remove the top of the crate makes it easier for a vet to examine a cat who doesn’t want to leave his/her carrier. It should be sturdy, secure and stable for the cat while being easy for you to carry.

4. Consider taking your cat to a designated Cat Friendly Practice (CFP).

These practices have made changes to decrease stress and provide a more calming environment for cats and owners. Members of staff at these facilities have also been trained in feline-friendly handling and understanding feline-specific behavior in order to increase the quality of care for cats.

5. Make†your cat’s homecoming easier on your other cats.

Cats are very sensitive to smells and when one cat in a multi-cat household returns from a visit to the vet the others may not recognize him/her right away. Itís best to leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how all of the cats react. Separate the cats if there are signs of tension.

The AAFP makes it easy to find a veterinarian who is an AAFP member or an animal hospital that is designated as a Cat Friendly Practice.

Related at Care2

Images via Thinkstock

57 comments

Marie W
Marie W6 months ago

Thanks.

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito7 months ago

Thanks

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Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Noted.

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Aaron F
Past Member about a year ago

Try to chill out yourself...cats are exquisitely sensitive to our moods. If you're stressed out...Fluffy will be too...

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Aabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing, Loki, who I lost last year and is very much missed, used to love to go anywhere. As soon as you brought the carrier out he was in it, waiting for you to take him somewhere....even the vet! Unfortunately his brother was the exact opposite and would hide under bed etc.

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Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuimabout a year ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adamsabout a year ago

My ginger tabby cat Fiona is now 10 years old so she must go to the vet evry six months. She is NEVER going to be found in the carrier that is out all year long with a comfortable fluffy blanket. She hated it yesterday when I took her ( a clean bill of health by the way) and she will not be a happy kitty in six months. My other ginger tabby Timothy who is 4 years old sleeps in the carrier and doesn't get too stressed when he goes to the vet. Cats are individuals and just because they are the same breed doesn't mean they will react the same way when the go for their vet visits. Thanks,

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Leo C
Leo Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Edith B
Edith Babout a year ago

I bring the carrier into the house a week before vet day, they play in it, sleep in it, and still fight me when It is time to go to the dr.

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antelaabout a year ago

Thank you.

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