Oct 02 2012

Getting Your Cat to the Vet Doesn’t Have to be a Terrible Experience

Dr. Nicholson with Zurry

Most people don’t realize that while cats are the most popular house pets, they also represent one of the animals that are least examined by a veterinarian. When the topic is discussed with cat owners, it seems that the reason for this boils down to one of two reasons:

  1. Many people with indoor cats don’t understand or feel the importance of their cats having regular physical exams because their cats never go outside.
  2. It’s often a stressful and terrifying experience for their cats and they’d rather not put them through such an experience.

It’s important to keep in mind that the reason humans are living longer than we used to is because we’re now more capable of early disease detection and are practicing preventative medicine. The same is true for your cat. Even if your cat never goes outside, he/she is susceptible to various disease processes. Degenerative kidney failure is common in cats as they age. If detected early by your veterinarian, various measures can be taken to prolong your cat’s lifespan. Feline hyperthyroidism is also common in cats. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to secondary cardiac dysfunction. Various cancers, if diagnosed early, are treatable. And keep in mind, indoor cats are not immune to parasite infestation. When you come home from your day outside, you may bring parasites into your home on the bottoms of your shoes. Your furry indoor family members may be exposed. Annual fecal tests are important for indoor pets, too.

So how do we get our cats to the vet without them looking like this??

Getting Your Cat To the Vet, JN, 08-27-12, Cat 1      Getting Your Cat To the Vet, JN, 08-27-12, Cat 3
Cats can be conditioned to be more comfortable in their carriers, cars, and the veterinary hospital. With some time and patience, you can greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and your veterinarian’s ability to care for your cat. Give the following a try:
  1. Start carrier training as young as possible. The younger your cat is when she gets used to the carrier, the more comfortable she will be as an adult.
  2. Keep the carrier accessible to your cat at home. Leave the carrier door open. Allow them to play, hide, and sleep in their carrier when at home. Put the carrier in a room that the cat likes to be in, with soft bedding, to encourage regular use.
  3. Carriers that load from the top are helpful. Veterinarians can then take the top off and start their examination with the cat comfortably sitting in the bottom.
  4. Put a treat in the carrier every day to encourage your cat to enter the carrier. When your cat enters the carrier, give another treat to reinforce the behavior.
  5. Gradually close the door and slowly extend the closed-door period. Over several days, try closing the door and walking out of the room for several seconds before returning. Use treats to praise good behavior, then try carrying the carrier to different parts of your house.
  6. Begin taking short car rides. Over time, start increasing the amount of time in the car. This allows your cat to feel like going in the car does not always result in a vet visit.
  7. Remain calm when it comes time to travel with your cat. Your cat can sense nervous energy and traveling will be worse for everyone involved. Cats do not learn from punishment or force. Give rewards to encourage positive behavior.
  8. Cover the carrier with a towel or blanket when traveling. This gives your cat a feeling of security.
  9. Add personal items that smell like home to the inside of the carrier like toys and bedding. All of these things should come with you to the vet’s office.
  10. Bring all cats to the vet visit together. This may prevent conflict, as all cats will carry the scent of the vet office when returning home.
  11. Spritz a pheromone spray, like Feliway, into the interior of the carrier. This product is very helpful in reducing feline anxiety.

With some time and patience, your cat can look just like this one!

Cats need to have a health exam every year. As they age, it is even more important because cats are very good at hiding illness. By the time many cats are examined due to illness their disease has been progressed for a quite some time. Subtle changes in your cats’ behavior are important to take note of: if you notice your cat is sleeping more often, hiding more frequently, not interacting like she used to, losing or gaining weight, eating or drinking much less or much more than usual, grooming less frequently, vomiting, or showing any other unusual symptoms, a trip to the vet is strongly recommended.
Give your cats the best chance at a long and healthy life by bringing them in for annual examinations. It’s much easier, and far less expensive, to treat a disease when it’s diagnosed early. If you practice preventative care with yourself and your family, do it for your pets too!
 Getting Your Cat To the Vet, JN, 08-27-12, Cat 4
Dr. Nicholson graduated from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She was born in New York City and raised in northern New Jersey. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Alfred University and completed a post-Baccalaureate / Pre-Veterinary Program at Rutgers University.
Over the last nine years, Dr. Nicholson has gained an extensive amount of experience at emergency and specialist hospitals in both New York and New Jersey – including The Animal Medical Center in New York City. After graduation, she completed a one year rotating internship program at Garden State Veterinary Specialists where she was exposed to a wide range of specialty fields including Emergency Medicine, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and Neurology. This experience will be invaluable to both our team and our clients.

By Jacqueline A. Nicholson, DVM

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