Finicky Felines: 3 ways to create a positive vet visit
Cats, ya’ll! They are such interesting creatures. Ever heard the statement “Dogs have owners, cats have servants”? Anyone who has invited a feline friend into their family can vouch for how true that statement is. Cats are wonderful companions (on their terms, of course) and actually outrank dogs as the more popular pet. However, when it comes to veterinary care, the numbers drop dramatically - more dogs are seen regularly for check-ups than their feline counterparts. Why? Well, it goes back to the whole ‘cats have servants’ thing...most dogs come running when they see a leash and happily hop right into the family vehicle. Meanwhile, Tigger senses his vet visit coming the moment you get off the phone from scheduling the appointment. Seriously, it's like our bodies emit a scent letting him know something's awry! Tigger escapes outside, hides under your bed (just perfectly out of reach of your best downward dog), or if you are lucky enough to catch him he is growling and hissing by the time I step foot in the room. How can we change this? Cats need to visit us so we can make sure they are happy and healthy. Try these 3 tips for your feline and hopefully the level of stress will be low and you will be on your way to helping your cat enjoy the vet!
1. Your cat is the boss. Step 1 is to allow your cat to believe it is his choice to go to the vet. How in the world is this accomplished? Well, we start with the carrier. Cats are curious beings. Put the carrier out so it is part of Tigger’s everyday encounter. Have all the doors to the carrier open (a front and top opening hard carrier is ideal) so he is free to jump in and run out at his convenience. Feed him in the carrier and occasionally put a small treat for him to find in there. This way, when you are ready for a visit, he will already be choosing to go!
2. Pheromones are your phriend! Cats respond quite well to the use of feline pheromone sprays and diffusers such as Feliway. You won't be able to smell them and neither will your dog. The pheromones are species specific and thus target only your cat. Spray the carrier, spray your car, and spray the exam room at the clinic. You will notice a much calmer feline.
3. Food. For my canine patients, I suggest cutting back on their food prior to a veterinary visit. Cats, being the perceptive panthers they are, will know exactly what’s going on if you decrease their sustenance by any significant portion. Thus, we must be creative and find a treat they will love. Microwave a few tiny shrimp, (FYI most veterinary clinics have microwaves so you can always ask this of the staff) and allow the aroma to permeate the exam room. My personal favorite is whipped cream. Cats love a little whipped topping! Whatever your bribery, bring it with you for a sure way to incentivize your intelligent pet.
Note: Do not be afraid of sedation. It is my goal as the veterinarian to create a positive experience, and often times this begins with a few sedated appointments. In addition, do not underestimate the value of house calls, especially if you have a multi-cat or multi-pet household. Most veterinarians are happy to oblige!
We love cats because of their independent yet curious nature. I hope these tips help you to ease your feline friend into his annual check-up and if your cat is one who already tolerates his veterinarian, then I’d say you served him well!
– Leigh Hofmeister, DVM