Recently we dedicated a staff meeting to the discussion of low stress handling of feline patients. Our goal is to deliver medical care to our furry friends with the least amount of stress as possible…in a fashion that promotes safety for cats and for people.
It is well known in veterinary medicine, that in comparison to dogs, cats are not given the medical care that they deserve. There are many reasons that cats are not presented to veterinarians for care, but one of the biggest reasons is the stress involved for the cats (which, of course, translates into stress for the people who love them). Whether it is trying to “catch the cat”, the meowing in the car during transit, or the cat’s reaction to being handled at the animal hospital, we know that feline check-ups are no fun for anyone!
It really is important for cats to get an exam once a year. Cats are masters of disguising illness and pain. Regular exams can help us to prevent problems before they become difficult to treat or manage.
There are ways to make veterinary visits easier for cats. Here are some ideas:
- At home. Cats are very leery of changes to their environment. All cat owners know that getting out the cat carrier usually results in the cats running away and hiding under furniture. Imagine being a cat and associating the carrier with being caught, pushed inside, driven in a car, and brought to the vet. Often when not feeling well… This scenario can change to be more feline-friendly by just getting the carrier out of storage several days or weeks prior to a veterinary visit. The carrier can be left out with the door open and an inviting blanket or bed inside. Treats and food can be placed into the carrier and the cat can go in and out at-will. With this method, the carrier becomes associated with normalcy and good things, so it isn’t the scary trap that most cats think it is.
- The car ride. It is true that many cats vocalize in the car. They often don’t travel much and when they do, it is likely for stress-inducing reasons. You can help to make the car ride a little less frightening for your cat by placing a light sheet or blanket over the carrier and securing the carrier on the car seat so that it does not slide around. Sprays like Feliway or Pet Remedy applied to the sheet can be helpful in producing calming sensations for the cats.
- Visiting us. Walking into a veterinary hospital can be a sensory overloading event for cats. They are out of their safe and normal environment, there are smells of other cats and dogs and people, and there are often barking dogs to be heard somewhere. You can help your cat to feel safer at the hospital by putting his or her carrier down in the kitty waiting area (away from dogs) and keeping the light sheet over the carrier. If your carrier isn’t too big, placing it on a chair can be helpful for your cat because cats feel more in control when they are at a height.
Once in the exam room, remove the cover from the carrier and open the door with the carrier on the floor. Your cat can walk out on his or her own while you discuss your concerns with a technician.
We love taking care of cats. They are hilarious and fierce and loving creatures. Being “indoors only” doesn’t mean that they do not need medical care. Having a healthy cat is so much more than just getting “shots”. If you have anxiety about bringing your cat in for care, feel free to give us a call and one of our staff members can talk with you about the best way to help your kitty get the healthcare that she deserves.