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Taking your cat/kitten to the Vet

26 August 2013
Article describing about taking your cat/kitten to the vets.

28 The Cat Spring 2011
A day in the life of a cat behaviour counsellor
If only the visit to the vet didn’t go something like
this... the day arrives. If you are clever enough
to have thought ahead and blocked all exit
points to the house – and that secret hole under
the floorboards in the airing cupboard – you may
have a sporting chance of getting your cat into the
basket. You don the elbow-length oven gloves and
corner your cat – by this time an unrecognisable
spitting, snarling banshee of a creature – and
attempt to push him into the basket while he braces
himself star-shaped at the entrance with a leg at
each corner and flatly refuses to go in. Luck or
determination may get your cat in the basket and
you can start your journey. Within seconds of the
car pulling away, you are greeted with a cacophony
of sound from your cat and an extremely obnoxious
smell that indicates both ends of your cat have
produced substances that you hope will remain
contained within the basket until you arrive at the
destination. This is rarely the case. When you arrive
you have a stinking basket and a stinking cat, both
requiring the tender loving care of the veterinary
nurse before you can even think about seeing the
vet. Does this sound familiar? If so, you know how
distressing this is for you, but can you even imagine
how awful it is for your cat?
Being a territorial creature, the cat becomes
closely bonded to its familiar environment and
therefore experiences some degree of stress when
removed against his will. When a cat is taken to
the veterinary surgery, he will be exposed to many
challenges: the cat basket – possibly with negative
associations from previous trips – the car journey,
strange smells, sights and noises of the practice, new
people, other animals – dogs and cats – unwanted
handling and unpleasant procedures. There may
even be pain associations from previous visits to
increase his anxiety.
Vicky Halls investigates how to remove the stress of visits to the vet
Vicky Halls is a registered Veterinary Nurse, a
member of the FAB’s Feline Behaviour Expert Panel
and author of several best-selling cat counselling
books. For further information regarding these and
to subscribe to Vicky’s free monthly e-newsletter
featuring cat behavioural articles, cats in the news,
tips for cat owners and competitions, please visit her
website at www.vickyhalls.net
If cats arrive at the veterinary practice stressed,
various tests carried out may be affected by their
emotional state, for example their blood glucose
levels, heart rate and respiration rate will rise. The
acute stress response, known as ‘fight or flight’,
kicks in as the cat instinctively prepares for danger.
Most would choose flight as the most effective
means to escape danger, but if confined in a basket
in an unfamiliar place, the sense of threat may be
so extreme that aggression may be exhibited. This
makes it even more challenging to examine and
treat a highly fearful cat.
The modern veterinary practice understands the
concept of a feline-friendly environment. Finding
the most cat-sensitive surgery near you is the first
step to removing the trauma associated with your
cat’s healthcare. I believe that prevention is better
than cure on this particular issue and give the
following advice for those owners familiar with
the sweaty paws and urine-soaked car journeys
associated with the trip to the vet.
Stress free travel
• The ideal cat carrier is strong, relatively
lightweight, secure and easily cleanable. Baskets
with an opening at the top are always preferable
as this enables you to lower your cat in from
above, always an easier manoeuvre if there is
any degree of reluctance
• Leave the basket out permanently at home in a
convenient location rather than shutting it away
and only bringing it out when your cat is about
to have a bad day. Instead, turn it into a warm
bed with the occasional food treat or toy inside
so that it becomes a familiar and constant part
of your cat’s life
• If you are taking more than one cat to the vet,
provide each with his own basket, no matter
how friendly they are with one other
• Plan scheduled trips for vaccinations, dental
treatments and preventative health care by
making an appointment at a time when the
journey to the vet will be outside rush hour
• Unless told otherwise by your vet, withhold food
for four to five hours before the journey to keep
the likelihood of vomiting, bowel and bladder
activity to a minimum
• Spray the inside of the cat carrier with a
Feliway® spray 15 minutes before introducing
The Cat Spring 2011 29
your cat – use sparingly with one spray in each corner and
two on the floor and roof of the carrier. This is a synthetic
analogue of naturally occurring cat pheromones secreted
from glands in the cheeks and face that provide a message
of security and familiarity
• A lining of plastic sheeting, newspaper and then a towel
or washable blanket will be sufficient to deal with any
toilet mishaps en route. It is probably worthwhile taking a
spare set and a plastic bag for soiled bedding just in case
• In addition to the bedding inside, take a towel or blanket
with you on the journey that smells reassuringly of home.
This can be used to drape over the basket in the car.
The vet may wish to use it to surround your cat with the
security of home during the examination
• Secure the basket in the footwell on the passenger side
or on the seat using the seatbelt. Ensure that the basket is
upright and not tilted to one side
• Turn the car radio off or reduce the volume and use a
gentle, calm voice to occasionally reassure your cat but
there is no need to match his every moan with one of
your own
• Drive as smoothly as possible with minimal harsh braking
or acceleration
Once you have arrived and are in the reception of your vet
practice, be aware of the impression the other patients will
have on your cat. If there are shelves provided, place your cat
basket on a high level, away from perceived danger and cover
the basket with the blanket – some cats prefer to have a small
opening through which they can peer just to keep an eye on
all the dangerous things. If the reception fills with agitated
and barking dogs, you may even consider returning to the car
and requesting that the receptionist call you or signal through
the door when it is your turn to see the vet. Switched on
receptionists may offer you and your cat a quiet space away
from the furore to wait, if the facilities are available,
or request politely that the agitated dogs and their owners
wait outside.
Hopefully all your careful preparation will have resulted in
a stress-free visit, but there is one further consideration if you
have other cats that were spared the vet trip patiently waiting
indoors. Cats communicate predominantly using their sense
of smell and the familiar communal odour that a group of cats
creates helps to bond them. That scent changes when one cat
takes a trip to the vet and acquires a mix of threatening and
unpleasant smells from the surgery. This can cause a dramatic
response when the cat is brought home and the others fail
to recognise their companion. To avoid this happening to
you, keep the returning cat in a separate room initially for at
least the first few hours – or overnight if he’s spent the whole
day away – to enable him to groom to re-establish a familiar
odour. You can assist this process by stroking and generally
giving affection but be careful not to over fuss a postoperative
patient. Be guided by the vet or nurse who will give
you the appropriate aftercare advice.
Photo: CP Library