By Suzanne Denk, CSB-C, Dip.FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist
Routine wellness visits to the vet are necessary but can be traumatic for you, your cat and even for other animals at home. Here are some tips to keep the next visit as stress-free as possible!
Being comfortable in the carrier is a critical part of keeping your cat’s stress level low. When the carrier comes out, it signals to your cat that something unpleasant is going to happen. Plan ahead and make the carrier a comfortable place by putting it where your cat spends time and by creating positive experiences with it. For tips on carrier acclimation refer to our Spring 2021 issue at ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org/Petsburgh.
For the trip to the vet, cover the carrier with a towel to decrease visual stimulation and spray the towel with a calming pheromone like Feliway. Hold the carrier securely from the bottom and do not swing it at your side or let it knock into anything. Playing soft, soothing music in the car on the ride can also help to ease stress!
The vet’s office may have other animals in the waiting area, unfamiliar smells and scary noises. Keep the carrier covered and away from other animals who may be in the lobby. In the exam room, ask if the carrier’s top can be removed and your cat can stay in the base during the exam. If your cat must be removed, ask if they can be placed on the towel from home. Bring special treats to help create a positive experience for your cat. Communicating and working with your vet can help decrease stress for everyone!
When your cat returns home, it is common for other cats in your household to be unwelcoming. This is because your cat does not smell the same and is seen as a trespasser who smells like the vet’s office! Once your cat has groomed itself and spent time at home, it will start to smell familiar again. You can help this process by wiping your cat with a soft cloth before you leave for the vet. Wipe their head, cheeks, chin and body and place the cloth in a plastic bag and zip it shut. After the vet visit, wipe your cat again with the scented cloth to help it start smelling familiar again.
When back home, wash or wipe out the carrier and any towels that may have the scent of the vet’s office. Let your cat rest in a quiet space after being such a good patient! You may not be able to remove all of the stress, but with a little planning, wellness visits can be less upsetting for everyone. And, if possible, have all your household cats on the same wellness schedule.