According to recent surveys, cats are the second most popular pet in Australia, after dogs.
However, for a cat owner, a visit to the vet can be far more stressful than taking your pooch for a health check. Add to that the fact that cats are extremely good at hiding illnesses, and most cats end up making the trip to the vet less often than ideal.
Because of their ability to hide illnesses (important because in the wild they are both predator and prey), it is even more important to come to visit us for yearly vet checks, so we can pick up on and be pro-active about any early signs of health problems. However, how can we make the trip to the vet less stressful for all?
Start by making their cat cage a part of the normal furniture, not something that is brought in from storage whenever a trip to vet or boarding kennel is imminent. Keep the door open, have nice soft bedding inside it, and offer treats or favourite toys inside the cage. This way, the cage is associated with pleasant things and has a familiar smell.
Smell is a significant part of cat communications, and their sense of smell is far greater than people’s. Feline pheromones play a big role! We can use this by spraying “Feliway spray” into the cat cage 15-30 minutes before the trip to the vet. Feliway spray is a synthetic cat pheromone, mimicking the scent of a mother cat, which can have a calming effect on your kitty.
If at all possible, take your cat for trips around the block inside the cat cage (which at this point should be a positive part of life). Start by placing your cat inside the cage in the car, give her a treat then take her inside again, repeat this several times. When she seems comfortable enough, start the car and treat, several times, until this is accepted as normal. Then take her for short trips around the block and treat. You can even drive to our clinic and come in for a treat or a pat. Sometimes covering the cage with a towel can help calm them as well.
Once you are in the waiting room for your vet visit, we have small towels and complimentary feliway spray available for you. Please spray the towel and drape over your cat’s cage. We endeavour to keep enough time between appointments, so the waiting room is not full. However, if other animals are present, keep the cage facing away from them and sit the cage on a chair (higher ground makes cats feel safer). If needed, one of our friendly staff can take the cage to the back of our clinic to reduce stress.
Once inside the consulting room, the vet will ask you any necessary questions before opening the cage. This, hopefully, will give her a chance to get comfortable enough. Then we will open the cage door and if possible, give your cat time to explore the table before any necessary handling starts.
Some cats will tolerate handling better than others. Practice handling calmly and comfortably with lots of positive rewards at home. This may help cats tolerate handling at the vet, which makes everything less stressful for all involved. Remember not to go too fast, and not to punish unwanted behaviour. No matter how small the gain (e.g. she finally sniffs the cat cage, or she tolerates you picking her up), reward with treats, pats, praise or play, whatever is important to her.
In some cases, cats can be so anxious; no rewards will be enough to settle them down when at the vet. Please talk to us if this is the case, we may be able to discuss strategies which will still enable you to have your furry family member get their much needed regular health checks and veterinary care.
You can contact us at Cronulla Veterinary Clinic on 9527 2604 with any questions or concerns, and speak to one of our friendly staff.