Has it been awhile since your cat has visited Mill Creek Animal Hospital? We are excited to welcome them back for the official National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day on August 22, but we happily celebrate feline veterinary visits every day of the year. However, we know your cat may not be as happy to see us as we are to see them.
Who’s afraid of the veterinarian? Cats—and their owners According to Bayer and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, 52 percent of cat owners avoid routine veterinary care for their cat. With an estimated 94 million owned cats in the United States—likely more due to pandemic cat adoptions—that’s roughly 47 million cats who might be living with illness and disease. Cats miss out on veterinary care for two main reasons:
- Cats are masters at hiding illness — Eighty-one percent of owners believe their cat is in excellent health, and has no need for the veterinarian. What they may be seeing, however, is their feline’s remarkable ability to hide pain and discomfort. An outwardly normal cat may be battling parasites, arthritis, heartworm, thyroid, kidney, or intestinal disease.
- Fearful cats act aggressively and are difficult to handle — Fifty-eight percent of cat owners believe their cat hates the veterinarian. While it may seem that way, their cat is likely reacting out of fear, stress, and potentially pain. Cats are sensitive to changes in their environment, so leaving the home is emotionally threatening.
Pre-visit planning for your cat
If your cat has been aggressive, or our veterinary team has not been able to handle them, do not be deterred from scheduling their exam. Many options are available to help keep you, your cat, and our team members safe while your cat gets the care they need. Call us to discuss:
- Pre-visit pharmaceuticals — Our veterinarian may prescribe your cat anti-anxiety medication or a sedative, to allow for safe transport and handling.
- Expediting your cat’s examination — We can take you directly to an exam room, to reduce the wind-up of stress that your cat may experience waiting in the lobby or car.
- Your cat’s history — Our veterinarian can gather information about your cat over the phone, to reduce the time needed to handle your cat for their physical examination.
Be prepared with questions about your cat
Make a note of any questions you have about your cat’s care, health, or behavior. Owners commonly become distracted by their pet’s behavior during the exam and forget the questions or comments they had. Ensure you mention any changes in your cat’s behavior, eating habits, or litter box use.
Happy travels with your cat in the car
Cats are rarely happy to travel, but some feline-friendly strategies can teach them to cooperate.
- The crate shouldn’t always mean a trip to the vet — Find a style your cat likes, and keep the crate accessible and appealing to your cat year-round with a soft blanket, some treats, special toys, and a cat-pleasing pheromone spray.
- Avoid feeding your cat prior to travel — A nervous cat with a full stomach leads to stress and mess.
- Secure the carrier in your car — On the floor behind the driver’s seat is the safest place for your cat’s carrier. Crates placed on the seat may slide or fall if you need to brake quickly. Never let your cat ride unrestrained in the car.
Happy times with your cat at the clinic
Once you have arrived, we will work with you to ensure your cat has a successful visit. Help ensure your cat has a positive experience with the following tips.
- In the lobby — Place a sheet over your cat’s carrier to help them feel less exposed. Keep the carrier on a chair or low counter to deter curious dogs. Lift and carry the carrier from the bottom with two hands to prevent jostling your cat. If you need help, let us know when you arrive.
- In the exam room — Unless we have instructed you otherwise, allow your cat to investigate the room, if they choose. Offer them a toy and a few small treats, unless they are being fasted for blood work.
- Let your cat control the appointment — Do not rush to pick up your cat or put them on the exam table when the veterinarian and veterinary technician arrive, as this can startle them. Your cat’s body language and natural behavior will guide how the examination proceeds.
- Your cat may do better without you — Sensitive cats react to owner stress and become uncooperative. If your cat is struggling, we may ask you to step out to see if their behavior improves.
- Let us show you — If your cat will cooperate, we can demonstrate cat care skills, such as tooth brushing, grooming, and nail trimming. We can also provide resources so you can try them at home.
Bringing your cat to the veterinarian can seem daunting, but with careful preparation and a few modifications, many owners are pleasantly surprised at their cat’s behavior. Call us to schedule your cat’s appointment at Mill Creek Animal Hospital, or to discuss how you can prepare for their visit. And, don’t forget to celebrate your cat on August 22!