Going to the doctor is no fun, and your cat is probably really scared when he sees the signs that a vet visit is coming up for him. Although it’s impossible to remove all stress from the experience, there are some steps you can take to make vet visits for cats less scary.
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In her book, Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat, Pam Johnson-Bennett offers these tips:
Look for a Cats-only Clinic
The sights, sounds and smells in a vet’s office are scary enough for cats, but the anxiety worsens if they have to share the waiting room with dogs.
If there isn’t a cats-only clinic in your area, look for a clinic that has separate waiting areas for cats.
Help Your Cat Become Comfortable With His Carrier
If you don’t take your cat to the vet frequently, your cat will probably come to associate his carrier with vet visits. Here are some suggestions to help him become comfortable with his carrier:
- Put the carrier in a room you use often, keep the door of the carrier open and treat it as part of the furniture.
- Add some comfortable bedding, catnip, or your cat’s favorite treats. This will help your cat realize his carrier can be a fun place to hang out.
- If your cat will eat inside his carrier, feed him there daily. For those not comfortable eating there, feed near the carrier and gradually move the food dish closer until he will go inside.
- Once your cat becomes comfortable with eating in the carrier, teach him the “in” command. Put a treat in the carrier and when your cat goes in, say “in.” Praise him while he’s in there. When he comes out, toss in another treat and repeat. Eventually, when say “in,” your cat should go into the carrier on his own. Give him a treat after he goes in, while he’s still in the carrier. This shows him going into the carrier can be fun, and rewarding!
Minimize Waiting Room Time
To minimize time spent in the waiting room, schedule your cat’s appointment for the morning, or right after the doctor’s lunch. Try not to schedule on Saturdays or weekday evenings after 5, since both of those slots are usually very busy.
Avoid Waiting Room Altogether
If your cat tends to get very panicky in the waiting room, wait in the car with your cat. Ask the receptionist to call you when the doctor is ready to see your cat.
Know Your Cat’s Window Of Opportunity
Some cats relax after taking time to checkout the exam room. Other cats become more anxious the longer the time in the room. If you know your cat’s window of opportunity, share this with your vet.
It may mean discussing information with your vet after your cat is back safely in his carrier, but this can help minimize your cat’s stress during the visit.
I am terrified of the doctor’s office, so totally understand why vet visits for cats are so stressful for them.
Using the tips above to schedule vet appointments, get your cat comfortable with his carrier so transport will be easier, and minimize waiting room time will make the experience easier for you and your cat.