Here at Cat Care Center, we believe a stress-free vet visit begins at home. Cats are most comfortable in their familiar surroundings, and they need time to adjust to new things. A visit to the veterinarian poses many new experiences for your cat, such as getting into the carrier, a car ride, new sights, sounds, and smells, and being handled by unfamiliar people. Here are some tips to help make you and your cat's visit to Cat Care Center an enjoyable experience.
- Call us ahead of time to discuss your cat's personality with our feline friendly staff so we can better accommodate you and your cat. We'd also be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your cat's upcoming visit!
- Stay calm. Cats can sense our anxieties. We all know, when you simply think about the vet, your cat disappears under the bed!
- It's a good idea to grab a fecal sample out of the litter box before coming in for a visit. This is especially important if your cat is coming in for their annual check up and vaccinations, or if they are having any diarrhea or vomiting. We will use this sample to test for intestinal parasites instead of having to get one from your cat in-hospital. While it's best to get a sample from the specific cat coming in for a visit, we understand that it's not always possible in a multi-cat household and will accept a sample from any cat in the home, since any parasites present are likely to have infected all cats.
- Come prepared with a list and/or photos of all food, treats, medications, and supplements that your cat gets on a regular basis, as diet and nutrition is one of the most important aspects of feline care. To make your visit easier, you can fill out our New Client Form and Diet History Questionnaire under Forms in the Client Center tab.
Choosing a Carrier
The best carriers are made of hard plastic or have a sturdy frame. It is a good idea to purchase a carrier that has a top-entry and front-entry door. It's also important that your carrier has a top that can be easily removed. This way they can remain in the bottom of their carrier during our physical exams if they prefer. If your cat has had previous bad experiences with their carrier, it may be necessary to buy a new carrier to have a fresh start.
Help your cat feel secure in the carrier by placing familiar bedding, toys, treats, etc. in it. This will help your cat associate the carrier with a positive experience. Spray the bedding and carrier with Feliway spray, allowing 15 minutes for the spray to dry before letting your cat enter.
Familiarizing Your Cat With the Carrier
Make the carrier a staple of your cat's environment by leaving it out in the room where your cat spends the most time. It's a great idea to place the carrier in a sunny spot, as cats prefer warmer temperatures. You can also feed your cat in the carrier. After putting the carrier down, WALK AWAY. Let your cat enter and exit the carrier as they please, as it's important that they feel in control. Don't try to push them towards or into the carrier.
If your cat is especially weary of the carrier, try placing familiar bedding, toys, treats, etc. right outside the carrier. Once the cat is comfortable going near the carrier, you can slowly start placing those items inside of it. If that still does not get your cat interested, you may have to leave the top and door of the carrier off for a while and let them get comfortable with just the open bottom half before adding back the top and door.
Now that your cat is carrier trained, it's time to start moving them in the carrier.
- This process can be done in phases. Once your cat is accustomed to the carrier, practice lifting the carrier by the sides with both hands for a few moments, placing it back on the ground, opening the door, and rewarding your cat.
- If your cat asks to leave the carrier at any time, stop what you're doing and allow the cat to exit.
- Slowly increase the time your cat spends in the carrier and the distance you move. Always reward your cat at each step!
It generally takes 1-2 weeks to carrier train a cat, and can be done at any age. It's best to start this well in advance of your visit to Cat Care Center, but even one day can make a difference. Here's an excellent video on carrier training. The most important part of this process is to associate the carrier with a positive experience. Some things you may try are:
- Use the carrier to take your cat to the kitchen where a tasty treat awaits
- Use the carrier to take your cat outside for some mental stimulation and physical activity if they are accustomed to this
- Use the carrier to take your cat to another room where you can play a favorite game
Remember, for your cat's safety and wellbeing, they must always be transported in a safe carrier.
If your cat needs to come to Cat Care Center and is not yet familiar with the carrier, the following may help.
- Spray the carrier and bedding with synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway) at least 30 minutes prior to placing your cat in the carrier.
- Place the carrier in a small room without hiding places, then bring the cat into the room and close the door.
- Move slowly, speak softly, and don't forget to breathe!
- Do not chase or force your cat into the carrier. Encourage your cat to enter with their favorite treats, baby food, or toys.
- If your cat still will not walk into the carrier voluntarily, you will need to gently wrap your cat in a towel and lift them into the carrier while controlling all four limbs. If your carrier opens from the top, lower them in through that opening. If your carrier only opens from the front, tilt it upwards so that the door is facing up and lower your cat in that way as gently as possible.
Acclimating Your Cat to Riding in the Car
- Place the carrier in your running vehicle and provide verbal encouragement and treats as rewards. The safest place for the carrier to be is on the floorboard of the back seat. After a few minutes, bring your cat back inside and let them out of the carrier, again offering rewards.
- Next, repeat the same process, but with a short car ride.
- Repeat these steps multiple times until your cat remains relaxed for the duration of the car ride.
- Each cat is an individual and this process may take longer for some cats. Please be patient. Repetition and rewards are key in creating a favorable experience for you and your cat.
- If at any time your cat seem anxious or nauseous, please return home and call us at 225-228-1039, as your cat may need something for motion sickness.
Returning Home From the Veterinary Hospital
Returning home requires as much consideration as planning your visit, especially if you have a multi-cat household. Cats are extremely sensitive to smells and are very particular about their normal scent profile. Cats rely primarily on scent to identify each other and exist harmoniously, so an unfamiliar scent may be perceived as a stranger and lead to aggressive behaviors. Here are some tips to avoid problems upon returning home from your veterinary visit.
- Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to gauge your other cats' reactions.
- If all the cats appear calm and peaceful, you may let the returning cat out of the carrier.
- If you detect tension or know from previous experience that conflict will arise, keep the returning cat in the carrier and take it to a separate room. Be sure to provide resources such as food, water, and a litter box and keep them in that room for a minimum of 24 hours.
- During this 24 hour period, consider scent swapping to reestablish the group scent. This may be achieved by removing the bedding from the returning cat's carrier and placing it in a central location in the rest of the cats' environment and giving them time to no longer react to the scent. You may also take bedding from that central location and place it in the room with the returning cat to allow re-familiarization. Please call us for additional information regarding scent swapping!
- The use of Feliway may help with this process.
- For future visits, you may consider bringing multiple cats to the veterinary practice together.
- These are just some suggestions, please call Cat Care Center if you require additional information on this topic.