Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Tips for Making Vet Visits Less Stressful

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), 41% of cat owners only take their pet to the veterinarian for vaccinations, and 39% of feline owners state that they would only take their cat to the vet if she was sick.  Additionally, AAFP reports that 38% of cat owners say they are stressed just thinking about taking their cat to the vet.

Regular checkups are important for cats, just as they are for humans.  Being owned by a feline means it's your responsibility to ensure your kitty gets the medical care she needs.  I know that taking your cat to the vet may not be a walk in the park for either of you, but there are several things you can do to make your cat more comfortable going to the vet.  Try these tips to help make your vet trips easier and less stressful on both you and your feline friend.

Get Your Cat Used to His Carrier: When you pull out your cat's carrier, does he automatically run under your bed or couch?  Many cats associate their carriers with negative experiences.  One thing you can do to make vet visits more pleasant is to change your cat's association with his carrier.

Begin by leaving his carrier out all the time.  If your carrier has a removable top, take the top off so that your cat can easily get in and out of the bottom part of his carrier.  If your carrier doesn't have a removable top section, leave the carrier door open so your cat can go in and out of it voluntarily.

To make the carrier comfortable for your feline, place some soft cat bedding or a piece of clothing with your scent on it inside.  When you notice your cat sniffing, sitting by, or in the carrier, reward him with a treat.  Do this every single time you see him near or in the carrier.  Start feeding your cat near, and eventually in, his carrier.  This will help him begin to associate his carrier with positive things.  You can further your cat's positive association with his carrier by placing his favorite toys or catnip inside it.

Get Your Cat Used to Car Trips: Once your cat is used to her carrier, you can begin to get her used to car rides.  Start by simply placing your kitty in her carrier in the car for a few minutes at a time.  Reward her with treats every time to build a positive association.  Work up to turning the car engine on and taking short drives.  Ensure that you always talk to your feline in a calm, happy tone, and reward her with treats on each car ride.

Take Practice Trips: suggests taking practice trips to the vet with your cat.  Take your cat to the vet once or twice a week, but do not have him examined during these trips.  Rather, give your kitty treats while in the waiting room.  Introduce your cat to the veterinary staff, and have them give your cat treats as well.  Ask if you can spend some time in an examination room with your kitty.  Once inside, open your cat's carrier, and allow him to explore the room.  Reward him with treats when he's on the examination table.  Repeated positive experiences in the waiting room, examination room, and with the veterinary staff will help your cat feel more comfortable when it's time for a real veterinary visit.

Find a Cat-Friendly Veterinarian: Some veterinarians have feline-only practices while others are making an effort to make cats more comfortable at their offices.  You can search the American Association of Feline Practitioners to find a cat-friendly veterinarian in your area.

Get Your Cat Used to Handling: You can help your kitty become more comfortable with vet exams by touching your cat's ears, face, paws, and tail while she's relaxing at home.  Gently picking up her paws, feeling her stomach, and opening her mouth will also help her feel more comfortable when your vet has to examine her.

Making Your Cat Comfortable in the Waiting Room: Some cats feel less vulernable when covered with a towel.  If it helps your kitty, bring a towel to cover his carrier with while waiting for your appointment.  Don't allow strangers or dogs to approach your cat in the waiting room.  Most cats are stressed out by unfamiliar people and pets.  Kindly explain to others who want to peek in on your cat that your kitty is stressed and needs his space right now.

Be Prepared: Write down any questions or concerns you want to discuss with your veterinarian.  Note any symptoms your cat has been exhibiting as well.  Pam Johnson-Bennett recommends using your smart phone (if you have one) to video concerning behaviors so that your vet can view them firsthand.  I've actually done something similar in the past for my vet, and I believe it helped her understand Jewel's behavior better.

Do you remember when Jewel was howling, seemingly randomly?  I used my smartphone to record the audio so that our vet could hear it for herself.  I also took photos of the way Jewel ate to help our vet understand Jewel's eating position, which changed over time.  The audio files and photos definitely helped her gain a better understanding of Jewel's symptoms and behaviors.

Going to the veterinarian for regular checkups is important.  Using these tips will help you reduce stress for both you and your kitty on trips to the veterinarian.

What do you do to reduce your cat's stress on trips to the vet? 



  1. Oh my! I should have made the Staff read this before I went to the vet yesterday!! Though I have to say that taking regular trips in the car will always upset me as I was injured inside a car engine before I was rescued! I'm definitely going to lobby for treats both before and after going as up til now it's only been after we get home!

  2. Those are great ideas- especially the practice trips. I also spray some Feliway into the carrier, but I don't think it really helped. No matter what I do Millie and Spooky always get diarrhea. :(

  3. Those are good tips. The mom always tries to plan ahead with us and schedule our vet visits for a time when we won't hafta wait long in our PTUs, like having the first appointment in the morning or after lunch. But we still hate going to the vet.

  4. This is some really good advice for humans who stress out when they take their cats to the vet! Because you know, all the steps you have here are as much for them as they are for us. ;-) I'm fortunate that neither my human nor I are uncomfortable going to the vet.

  5. Great tips, Sierra! Fortunately for us, Moosey is very good about going to the vet -- he even walks right into his carrier when it's time to go. He has also been known to hang out in there at home, as if it's his "mancat cave."

  6. I don't have any problem with any of those except #2, not happening!

  7. Our carriers are out all the time and we seep in them sometimes.

    But when the doors shuts to take us anywhere...YIKES!

    Great catvice!!

  8. We are also not big fans of Vet visits.
    We go early in the morning too so we do not wait too long.
    We still don't like going, but we love coming home!
    Purrs Georgia and Julie,
    Treasure and JJ

  9. Fab article! I have incorporated a few of these tips & they work well.
    Sherri-Ellen of Siddhartha Henry's Purrfect Pad
    P.S.: Your cats are beautiful esp Jewel who looks alot like Nylablue did...

  10. Great advice ! We often sleep in our PTU, they are always available ! Mum is not so good at getting us used to car trips... Purrs

  11. There are two BIG things that I do to make the Vet less stressful for both of my pets.
    1) I try to keep MY stress in check (that is the BIGGEST cause of stress for pets at the vet).....if the owner is beyond stressed the animal picks up on it, big time. I know it is easier said than done, trust me....Oh I know!

    2) with Cody the carrier stays out in the living room ALL of the time. That was so important. With my Angel Bobo I used to only bring it out for the vet.......STUPID! Then he associated it only with the vet. Cody will often go into the carrier to play or sleep and he never knows when he is going to be carted off to Dr.Smiley.
    I also have a comfy pillow in the carrier and sometimes will put a toy in there. I don't do the towel thing because Cody isn't stressed out by other animals.

  12. Vet visits are SO important, since cats are "the great pretenders" and can hide health problems so well. We're just back this morning from the vet for wellness checks and vx for both Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kat. Glad to say they're both in great health!

  13. All of these a great tips. Manna is comforted by being able to see everything and explore, so I make sure her carrier time is minimal. Cinco on the other hand would rather stay in the carrier and hide, so we don't pressure him to come out until he has to and then we put him right back in.

  14. I love learning so much about cats from you lovely cat bloggers who are teaching me so much! TY!

  15. We've been lucky. Other than our late Roxy, all our dogs love(d) going to the vet.

  16. My cats absolutely hate being in a carrier. I really should get them used to it so it's easier next time they have to go to the vet! Thanks for the advice!

  17. I can see how unhappy most of the cats are to be sitting in their carriers at the vets. I steer my dog away from where they are sitting so as not to add to their distress.

  18. I really like when vets have different entrances for cats but it's rare for sure.

  19. It's definitely worse for cats. Thanks for the information, I will review again before our next visit!

  20. Thanks for a very informative post. We go to regular check ups as a family and it is quite the exciting ride to the vet now that Timmy has taught the song of his people to the whole clowder. Great fun in the office too. MOL.
    This is doubly important information if you have a kitty who has a chronic health issues and does not like to go for check ups or treatment. Training our Rumpy to sit in the carrier and that if he jumps in he gets a treat has really helped.
    Dad Timmy and Family

  21. I never thought about how beneficial getting my cat used to car trips would be. Now thinking about it, this is when the stress would begin to happen because she doesn't know what's happening just in the car. I'll have to start doing this to make sure my next vet appointment is more beneficial. Hopefully this is able to help a little bit!

  22. I agree that one of the best things you can do to prepare as an owner is to get your cat used to being handled. My cat used to be very feisty at the vet, and didn't like to be touched at all. It just took consistent visits until she got used to the routine. It did make the trip to the vet a lot less stressful.

  23. I agree that it is important to find a cat-friendly veterinarian. Like you said, "Some veterinarians have feline-only practices while others are making an effort to make cats more comfortable at their offices."

  24. That's true that it's probably better for your cat to be used to its carrier. If you only pull it out when they are about to be poked and prodded, no wonder they might run away from you. From what you say, it sounds like having one with a removable top section is nice for them to be able to jump in and out and get used to it. I'll have to see about getting one of those.