The experience of taking your cat to the vet can be a stressful experience for both of you. Cats are attached to their home territory and are most comfortable with routine and a familiar environment. Getting into a carrier, traveling in a car, and being examined by a stranger can cause a lot of anxiety.
If you struggle with your cat’s regular vet exams, here are six tips that can make your next vet visit easier for both you and your feline friend.
6 Tips to Make Taking Your Cat to the Vet Easier
Taking your cat to the vet can be a lengthy process, and each step along the way can be stressful. Many cats are fearful of their carriers, while others may experience physical anxiety symptoms any time they’re in the car.
No matter what part of the vet process your cat struggles with, these tips can help.
1. Leave Your Cat’s Carrier Out at All Times
You most likely keep your cat’s carrying case in the garage or hidden in a closet until it’s time for your cat’s next vet exam. One of the biggest reasons cats resist getting into their carrier is because they only associate it with scary trips to the vet.
Start leaving your cat’s carrier out at all times with the top removed or the door open.
Put a few pieces of your cat’s favorite bedding inside to make the space more comfortable and inviting, and reward your cat every time they voluntarily go into the carrier. If your cat avoids the carrier, sprinkle a few treats inside to make it extra exciting.
The more comfortable your cat gets with their carrier under normal circumstances, the more comfortable they’ll be when it’s time for their next appointment.
2. Add Pheromones to Your Cat’s Carrier
Cats use scents to communicate with each other, and smell is a big part of how they interact with the world. Your cat may associate the smell of their carrier with the stress of the vet. If you use one carrier for multiple cats, their scents can also add stress and confusion.
Designate one carrier per cat, and use a pheromone spray to apply a small amount to the carrier. These pheromone sprays mimic the feline facial pheromones that cats leave when they mark their territory.
A few sprays of pheromones can help your cat feel calmer and more relaxed in their carrier and during transportation.
3. Train Your Cat to Be Handled
One of the most stressful parts of a vet exam for your cat is the actual examination, especially if your cat is not used to being picked up or touched for long periods. You can help ease this stress by practicing with your cat at home.
This training is easiest with kittens and young cats, but you can also practice with adult cats.
At home, start by gently petting your cat. Once your cat is calm and comfortable, gently pick up one paw and reward them immediately. Repeat this process with each foot, increasing the duration of time you hold your cat’s paw or pressing on each toe.
By rewarding your cat, you’re helping to build positive associations with a person touching their paws. To prepare your cat for all of the different parts of a vet exam, repeat this process with your cat’s ears, mouth, and stomach over time.
Once your cat is comfortable with you handling them, work through the training process with a friend or family member.
4. Build Positive Associations with Car Rides
For many cats, the only time they’re in the car is when they’re headed to the vet. Because of this, your cat may build negative associations with the car ride that can trigger anxiety symptoms, like urination or vomiting.
To help switch your cat’s perception of car rides, take them for practice runs! Start with short trips around the block, rewarding your cat for their good behavior. From there, you can build up to longer car rides, always ending with rewards.
You can even drive your cat to your vet’s office without going in for an examination to disrupt their connections of the vet’s office with stressful exams.
5. Limit Food A Few Hours Before the Appointment
If your cat struggles with vomiting or urinating in the car or at the vet’s office, consider restricting their food 3-4 hours before the exam to ease their upset stomach.
Always talk with a vet before restricting your cat’s food, as kittens and many cats with health conditions must keep their consistent food schedule.
6. Talk to a Vet About Calming Options
A vet can provide the best, most personalized recommendations to help ease your cat’s stress.
While the tips in this list will help many cats, some may still struggle with anxiety and even aggression that makes being examined difficult. In those cases, a vet may recommend anxiety medication or a sedative to keep them calm in the office.
These sedatives can come with side effects, so it’s important to discuss these options thoroughly with a veterinary expert.
Speak with a Vet in the Comfort of Your Home
A virtual vet appointment may be the perfect solution if traveling to the vet’s office causes too much stress for your feline friend.
With Hello Ralphie, licensed veterinarians are available seven days a week to provide expert advice, treatment options, and even prescription medication (in some states) without the need to leave home. Book an online vet appointment with one of our trusted vets to help make your next visit as stress-free as possible.