Getting your cat to the vets

Providing good health care, especially preventative heath care can allow your cats to have longer, more comfortablet lives. However this cannot happen without regular health checks by the vet.

For many cats a visit to the vets can be a source for stress. Many cats dislike going to the vets and this starts with the difficulty of getting your cat into the carrier. If this step is made easier then for many the entire veterinary visit is usually less stressful.

Many cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need time to adjust to the unfamiliar. Visiting the vet is often difficult as the carrier, car and veterinary hospital are unfamiliar.

There are a number of ways in which your cat’s stress can be reduced:

Stay calm

Cats can sense our anxiety or frustrations, which may cause them to become fearful or anxious. By remaining calm during car journeys and while at the vets cat anxiety can be reduced.

Encourage positive behaviour

Cats do not learn from punishment or foce. Give rewards to encourage positive behaviour.

For example if your cat is sitting calmly in or near a carrier give a treat. Rewards can be given to help your cat to become familar with a type of handling that may be encounter while at the vets such as handling paws. Treat your cat using a highly desirable object for your individual cat such as food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward every time.

Unlike dogs it is necessary for all cats to be placed into a carrier or box to allow transportation. The carrier alone can provide a great source of stress. By improving your cat’s association with its carrier you can increase its comfort and reduce stress.

Help your cat become comfortable with their carrier

The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with positive experiences and routinely enter voluntarily.

1. Make the carrier a familiar place at home by leaving it in a room where your cat spends a lot of time.

2. Place familiar soft bedding inside the carrier. Bedding or clothing with your scent can make them feel more secure.

3. Place treats, catnip or toys inside the carrier to encourage the cat to enter at home. Often, you will first see that the treats are removed the carrier during the night. It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm, pateitn and reward desired behaviours.

Getting an unwilling cat into the carrier

If your cat needs to go the vets right away and is not yet accustomed to the carrier the following may help:

1. Start by putting the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring the cat into the room and close the door. Move slowly and calmly. Do not chase the cat to get it into the carrier. Encourage the cat with treats or toys to walk into the carrier.

2. If your cat will not walk into the carrier, and your carrier has an opening on the top, gently cradle your cat and lower itinto the carrier. Another option is to remove the top half of your carrier while getting the cat to go into the bottom half, and then calmly replacing the top.

Use familar bedding inside the carrier.

Consider using a synthetic feline facial phermone (Feliway) spray in the carrier to help calm the cat during transport.

Which type of carrier is best?

The best carriers are inexpensive hard-sided carriers that open from the top and the front. Carriers which are easily taken apart are also beneficial.

An easily removable top allows a cat which is fearful, anxious or in pain to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for examination.

Avoid carriers that require a cat to be pulled from or shaken out for an examination.

Choose carriers that are sturdy, secure and stable for the cats, as well as easy for you to carry. Carriers should be seat-belted into the car to keep your cat safe and to reduce the bumpiness of the ride.

Some cats like to see out however some cats are less anxious if the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel to reduce stress during transport.