Don't Stress Out While Doctoring Out!
One of the most stressful things for us (the fur-baby guardians) is going to the dentist or doctor. It’s no surprise that many of our exquisitely-complicated feline companions also have that same hesitance. With our felines, the simple act of getting them into the carrier and driving to the hospital is often the most stressful part. Because routine physical exams and annual care can add many years to the life of your companion, it’s in the best interest of your kitty to see us each year. So, the question of the day is: “How can we prevent the doctor’s visit from becoming an unpleasant situation and make it an otherwise pleasant experience? In short the answer is: It’s complicated. Having said that, there are many things we can try to do to help them.
A notion of motion:
For many felines, the simple act of being in a car while in motion is enough to ruin their day. Many cats will eliminate or vomit during the car ride. Odds are that motion sickness is probably the culprit and is exacerbated by stress. In this case, adding things like a favorite towel or blanket spritzed with Feliway™ (a pheromone) or catnip might generally aid the trip. In addition, allowing the kitty to see an owner, through proper placement of the carrier (while maintaining proper seat belt restraint for the carrier) may help. Keeping the car’s interior both warm and quiet may also help (although with the howling many of us are tempted to turn the radio up). Generally, the shorter the drive the better, and driving conservatively without sudden turns and stops will only help things.
Chillin’ in the carrier rather than killin’ the carrier:
As the bell was central to Pavlov’s dog, the carrier can be central to your pet’s veterinary experience. For some cats, the carrier is a reminder of a road-trip (and if the road-trip is only ever to the vet, then it is equated to that place. One easy way to remedy this is to break the “Pavlovian” psychological link that your cat might have with the carrier and travel. Leaving the carrier out for a few days with favored toys, blankets, etc. placed inside of it should allow them to warm up to it. Done enough times and days before the appointment, most cats will get past their distrust and dislike of it and often will sleep in it and come to view it as a place of safety. As with our previous travelling hint, things that smell familiar, Feliway™ and/or catnip also may help. Additionally, a small amount of cherished treats strategically placed may help. It may be prudent to minimize food while travelling for the reasons mentioned before or if your veterinarian requests it for medical reasons.
Visiting rather than poking:
The most difficult part of re-teaching yourself and your kitty companion to love the doctor or dentist again is getting over the fact that when we go to the doctor, we often get poked and prodded. Especially for our feline companions, this is often a deal-breaker. Throw in a rushed personal schedule (and hurried visit) and a bustling veterinary clinic and you have a recipe for disaster. Ideally the best way to fix this is to habituate your feline to travel and to the veterinary clinic. Bringing treats with you to the clinic or visiting the clinic with your companion are good ways to break the bad association. Obviously this only works for the cats that have or do get used to travelling (yes, they do exist and yes they can get used to it). Alternatively, finding a clinic that is a serene environment, that is not overly-rushed and that does not allow your feline friend to come into contact with stressors like dogs or barking (sorry to all of you dog lovers out there). One optimal way to find this happy non-stressful environment is to find and frequent a local feline-only veterinary clinic. Feline-only veterinarians have a number of advantages as covered previously. (Why a feline-only vet?).
A word from the Doctors:
Even in the most extreme case of veterinary aversion, it is essential that your feline companion see the doctor annually. In these cases your veterinarian may recommend a mild sedative to ease your cat’s travels. The sedative can be picked up prior to the appointment. Alternatively, we may send you Feliway™ wipes prior to the appointment to wipe inside the carrier.