Transporting a cat to the vets is frequently a stressful event for both cat and owner alike. Cats do not travel well; they don’t feel safe away from their home territory, are sensitive to unusual sights, sounds and smells, and are highly stressed by the presence of nearby dogs. These difficulties can add up to a stressful experience for all concerned, and can result in owners deciding against taking their pet for veterinary care.
Whatever the reason for a visit to the vet, there are a number of ways to make the whole experience less stressful for both you and your cat. The following article offers advice on how to manage your cat at home, getting your pet into the carrier, and how to minimise stress during the journey and at the vets. These tips will help to make the whole process better for both you and your cat!
Never travel with a cat loose in the car. No matter how tempting it may be to cuddle your cat during the journey, both you and your pet are much safer when your cat is in a carrier.
Use a sturdy carrier. Cardboard boxes and storage boxes with a separate lid are no match for a determined cat! Sadly, we have heard of cats escaping from cars outside vet practices, because they got loose inside the vehicle. Catching a highly stressed cat, in an unfamiliar location, is all but impossible.
It can be difficult to choose the ideal carrier from the huge variety available. Try to choose one which has a large access point at the top, so that your cat can be gently lifted out, rather than having to be coaxed out through a narrow front opening. A carrier should be easy to clean, and not so large that your cat will fall about in it.
Your cat will be less alarmed if the carrier smells familiar and reassuring. You can achieve this by having the carrier around the house, so that it does not appear only when a visit to the vet is imminent – behind a sofa or under the stairs can make an ideal bolt-hole for your cat.
You can get your cat used to the carrier by using it as a bed at home or occasionally feeding the cat in it.
Placing your cat’s usual bedding or a familiar cushion in the carrier will reassure your cat. Items of clothing belonging to the cat’s favourite person can also be used.
Wipe a soft cloth around the cat’s face to pick up its scent from facial scent glands located on your pet’s cheeks. Then rub the cloth around the inside of the carrier, especially in the corners, and leave it in the basket. The familiar scent will reassure your cat. Alternatively, spray the carrier and its contents with Feliway, a synthetic feline pheromone which helps cats to feel secure, at least half an hour before putting your cat into the carrier.
If your cat panics at the sight of the carrier because it is unused to it or has bad associations with it, be prepared. Keep calm and work smoothly so that you are successful at the first attempt. Keep the basket close by, but out of sight. Wrap the cat in a towel which smells familiar, and put the cat and towel into the basket quickly but gently, so that your pet can not grab the carrier, struggle and escape. Keeping the cat’s legs wrapped in the towel should prevent your cat from resisting being placed in the carrier.
During the journey to the vets, cover the carrier with a cloth or towel which smells familiar, to keep your cat calm.
Put the carrier in the footwell behind the front seat of the car, or secure it on the seat with a seatbelt. Try to keep the carrier level, so that your cat is not sliding around on a slope whilst you drive!
Drive carefully to avoid the cat being thrown around.
Many cats will meow plaintively during a car journey, leading to an increase in their owner’s stress levels! Stay calm so that your cat doesn’t pick up any tension from you. Speak quietly and reassuringly during the journey, and keep the volume down on your radio.
If your cat has previously been sick or soiled in the carrier whilst being transported, take some spare bedding which smells of home, and place a towel under the carrier to absorb any ‘accidents’.
If your cat gets particularly stressed, you may want to keep the carrier in the car until it is time to be seen by the vet. If so, check in with our receptionist, and let her know that you will be outside with your cat. This way, you can ensure the car does not become overheated.
On arrival at the practice, try to avoid rushing. Keep your cat in the basket and carry it carefully, taking care not to knock the carrier against your legs or the doors.
Choose the quietest location to wait, keeping the cat carrier covered.
If possible place the carrier on a raised surface rather than on the floor, such as the chairs or windowsill.
Ensure that your cat is not face to face with another cat.
Talk in a quiet voice and with a reassuring tone.
If the waiting room is busy, we are always happy to place your cat in a quieter room, whilst you are waiting to see the vet – just ask our receptionist.
By keeping to a routine when taking your cat to the vet, your cat will be reassured and become less overwhelmed and stressed by the whole experience. This way, should your cat ever be seriously unwell, and need several vet visits or even hospitalisation, the adverse effects of stress will be minimised.