Does your cat hate the vet? You’re in good company. Surveys prove that cats see the vet far less often than dogs – some 52% of cat owners haven’t seen the vet in the past year! – in large part because cats are simply less compliant and amenable to being treated.
We get it.
Getting your cat the medical care he needs is a struggle. Maybe your cat’s a hider, scurrying under furniture the second he hears the clinking of his leash. Maybe finagling him into his carrier is like wrestling a furry alligator. Maybe once you get him to the vet’s office, he goes full catatonic or worse, turns into that girl from The Exorcist.
Here’s how to get your cat more comfortable with the experience of seeing the vet so you can ensure he gets the care he needs. Remember, ALL cats should be evaluated by a veterinarian at least once a year, regardless of whether or not they seem “sick.”
Try It: Schedule a House Call Vet Appointment
In-home veterinary care is an ideal solution for cat owners. A lot of modern pet parents assume house calls are a thing of the past but thousands of vets in both major metropolitan areas as well as rural locations exclusively make house calls.
Vetted is a house call veterinary service based out of L.A., but our vets operate in cities throughout the country. Vetted vets actually see more cats than dogs, and cat owners are always telling us how grateful they are for an alternative to dragging their resistant feline to the vet’s office. When cats get evaluated and treated at home, they get better care. The less stress and anxiety involved with a vet visit the better off everyone’s experience is and the more likely you are to be consistent about your cat’s care.
(And, to answer your question, house calls usually cost about the same as a regular vet visit! See a detailed pricing breakdown here.)
Ready to try your first in-home vet appointment?
Try It: Integrate the Carrier into Normal Life
It’s easy to understand why your cat gets all bent out of shape over going in his carrier when he only sees it just before he gets a shot. If you saw a blinking red light every time your dentist fired up her drill, you’d probably learn to be a little avoidant of blinking red lights, right? And if your cat’s agitated just by the carrier, imagine how wound up he is by the time he even arrives at the vet’s office.
Settle things down by making the carrier a more normal part of every day life. Leave it out and open in a room your cat likes to hang out in, and sporadically drop in a few treats, catnip, or whatever else might entice your cat to investigate. Praise him heartily when he’s near his carrier, and try to avoid making him get into it – always give yourself plenty of time to get him calm and compliant before you know you’ll need to take him anywhere in his carrier. (ProTip: This works for air travel, too.
Try It: Avoid Sensory Overload
Even for pet owners whose cats are able to make it to the vet’s office undeterred, all the sights, sounds, and smells (we’re looking at you, dogs) in the waiting room and exam room are often too much to take. Cats thrive on predictability, so it’s natural they’d be thrown for a loop in a highly unfamiliar and potentially “dangerous” situation.
There are a couple of solutions to try if your cat gets overwhelmed by sensations at the vet’s office. The simplest, once again, is to make an in-home veterinary care appointment so there’s nothing unfamiliar about the experience. If that option’s not available to you, make sure your cat’s carrier is large enough for him to stand up and turn around and is stocked with something that has a familiar smell like a blanket or your sweatshirt. (Some cat owners actually drape a blanket over the carrier so their cats won’t get spooked with what they see.) There are even over-the-counter feline pheromone sprays that some cat owners swear by.
If you have multiple cats, taking one to the vet without the other can sometimes illicit a skeptical reaction once you return home. Again, your at-home cat is just reacting to the unfamiliar smells coming off his feline friend, so the smells-like-home blanket trick can help bridge the gap. It’s also not a bad idea to leave the cat that went to the vet in his carrier for a bit when you return home so the other cat(s) can sniff things out.
Try It: Find a Vet You’re Both Comfortable With
Cats are highly sensitive to tension, fear, and any other negative emotions floating about. If your cat doesn’t like his vet (or, just as importantly, if you don’t like the vet), anxiety is going to be running high. Your cat’s vet should be friendly and personable, and she should always “break the ice” with your cat before she dives right into an exam.
If you ever have a gnawing feeling that something isn’t right – you feel rushed during an appointment; your vet isn’t as gentle with your cat as you’d like; you don’t feel like your concerns are being heard, etc. – it’s best for you and your cat for you to try another veterinary professional. Vets are people, too! They all love animals (being a vet is incredibly hard work) but their personalities differ just like any other professionals. Some are more clinical, some are funny, and some are eccentric. Find a vet that you and your pets feel comfortable with and don’t settle until you do. This can vastly improve the experience for everyone involved.
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