Cats don’t get the veterinary care they need. The findings of a feline health study conducted by Bayer Health Care found that 52% of America’s 74 million cats are not receiving regular veterinary care. Even more shocking, the study found that 80% of adopted cats are seen by a veterinarian right after they are adopted, and then not again for several years.
Why cats aren’t getting the care they need
There are two main reasons for these dismal statistics. One is the perception among many cat guardians that cats are self-sufficient. And while cats may be more independent than dogs, they’re also masters at hiding signs of illness, which is why regular veterinary exams are so important. By the time a cat shows symptoms, the disease may already be in the advanced stages, requiring more extensive, and expensive, care. The second problem is that taking a cat to the vet is stressful for most cats and their guardians.
The second reason is that getting cats into the veterinary clinic is stressful for both cat and guardian. A significant number of cat owners polled in the Bayer study admitted that even the thought of having to take their cat to the vet makes them feel stressed out. Given that cats tend to pick up on their guardians’ stress, this seems like a no win situation. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. And while it’s up to veterinarians and their staff to make the vet visit experience less stressful once cat and guardian arrive at the clinic, preparation for a stress-free vet visit begins at home.
Get your cat used to the carrier
A cat carrier is an important part of your cat’s life. Unfortunately, for most cats, the only time they’re in a carrier is when they have to go to the veterinarian, so the association with carriers is often a negative and stressful one. But carriers can be vital in an emergency, and it’s a good idea to get your cats used to the carrier so that they can associate it with a positive experience. This will go a long way to make vet visits less stressful.
From picking the right carrier to making it an alluring part of your cat’s every day environment, training a cat to accept the carrier is not that difficult, it just takes a little persistence and lots of rewards. Read How to Get Your Cat to Used to the Carrier for detailed instructions and helpful hints.
Spraying the carrier with Comfort Zone Feliway Spray can help keep cat calm (it’s also a great tool to use when training cats to accept the carrier.) Calming remedies such as Stress Stopper or Rescue Remedy can also keep kitty calm (and if you get stressed about taking your cat to the vet, you may want to take a hit or two of these remedies yourself!)
Limit food and/or treats prior to a vet visit
Veterinarians and staff like to use treats to create a positive association with a vet visit for your cat. By limiting food or treats before the visit, your cat will be more receptive to these “bribes.”
The car ride
Make sure that your cat’s carrier is flat in the car to help cats feel more secure. Most cats will do better with fewer stimuli, so consider having the carrier face the back of the seat rather than the front. You may even want to consider covering the carrier with a towel. Even though your instinct may be to talk to your cat in the car, unless you are truly relaxed, negative emotional talk such as “there, there, it will be okay, I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you” will probably not help your cat calm. Consider playing calming music especially engineered for cats instead.
At the clinic
If your vet clinic doesn’t have separate cat and dog waiting areas, ask that you and your cat can go directly into an exam room. Consider staying in the car with your cat and calling the clinic’s receptionist to let them know you’ve arrived. Ask that a staff member comes and gets you when an exam room is ready.
Now that you’ve done your part to make your cat’s vet visit less stressful, it’s up to the veterinarian and staff to follow cat-friendly practice and handling guidelines. And while no amount of preparation may be enough to make your cat actually enjoy going to the vet, being prepared can make a big difference.
Photo by frankleleon, Flickr Creative Commons