Tips to help reduce my cat’s stress at the veterinary clinic

Tips to help reduce my cat’s stress at the veterinary clinic

Here are some pointers to help make visits to the vet’s office less stressful for your cat.

October 2, 2019

Their eyes are bulging, muscles are tense and senses are on high alert. It’s not uncommon for cats, who hate being taken out of home environments, to feel a real aversion to veterinary clinics.

According to Serge Nadeau, a veterinarian and coordinator of the Animal Health Management program at Lionel-Groulx College in Montreal, familiarizing your pet with your veterinary clinic can help lower stress levels. “A good way to do this, if you can, is to take your cat to your vet clinic from time to time just to give him treats, with the goal that he’ll start to make a positive connection with the clinic.”

The challenge of the waiting room

If the mix of animals and waiting room odors scares your cat, Dr Nadeau suggests covering his carrier with a blanket. “That way he’ll feel hidden and safer. In larger clinics, where space allows it, you can ask to wait in an empty examination room, which will also allow your cat to get used to the place where your veterinarian will treat him.”

Waiting in your car may also be a good solution for some cats. You can play soothing music and ask the clinic to call you when it’s your turn.

Making the vet’s job easier

For optimal handling, animal health experts recommend a carrier that opens from the top. You can also bring a favourite toy, his “special” blanket and some treats (if your cat doesn’t need to be fasting). “This method is proven to lower stress in aggressive cats,” says Dr Nadeau. “It calms them down and also keeps us from getting scratched and bitten.”

Dr Geneviève Tétreault from Hôpital vétérinaire de Lachute in Quebec, stresses the importance of controlling your own anxiety. “A stressed owner will pass their nervousness on to their cat. It’s best to take a back seat and trust the health professionals to do their work. You can always stroke your cat’s head or ears while talking to him softly. Cats love that and it distracts them.”

Solutions for extreme (and not-so-extreme) cases

If your cat is beside himself with anxiety, you may question whether the visit to the vet will do more harm than good. If this is the case, consider visiting a clinic especially adapted for anxious cats. In Canada, “Cat Friendly Practices”, the first such certification in the world, are designed to reduce feline stress during visits to the vet. These practices feature waiting rooms that are reserved for cats only and pay close attention to cat sensibilities to ensure their wellbeing.

Finally, some veterinarians make house calls for routine healthcare and vaccinations—but not surgical procedures, x-rays or more complex treatments. This is a winning solution for cats who only feel at ease in the comfort of their own homes. Whatever you do, stay in the game! Your cat needs regular medical check-ups.

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