Take Your Cat to the Vet Day: More Purr, Less Panic
Guest post by Kristen Levine
If, like me, you share your life with one or more feline companions, you know what lovable and interesting creatures they are. My own cats, Turdie and Olivia, are sweet, loving, and affectionate, and they both have unique silly streaks that keep us laughing daily.
As easy as they are to care for (compared to my dog, Chilly), some of the routine aspects of life with cats aren’t typically something that cats or cat parents look forward to. Namely, vet visits.
To remind us of the importance of vet visits in caring for our cats’ health, August 22 is Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. Does it surprise you that it’s necessary to have a day to raise awareness of the need to schedule wellness visits for our feline friends?
Amazingly enough, even though there are more cats than dogs in the US, cats visit the vet far less often than dogs. In fact, according to one study, only half as many cats as dogs get regular check-ups.
Why Cats Don’t Get to the Vet
Of course, this isn’t because pet parents care any less about our cats’ welfare than we do about our dogs’. It’s more likely due to a variety of other factors, including the way cats are usually brought into the family. The majority of cats are acquired at no cost, and many of them are adopted without prior planning (“he just showed up at the door one day”). As a result, owners receive little or no instruction on care compared with dogs who are adopted from a breeder or rescue.
Another reason is that, even though cats are at risk for many health conditions, including hyperthyroidism, dental disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer, they are also much more adept than dogs at hiding any signs of injury or illness. Add this skill to their reputation for being self-sufficient and independent, and many cat parents simply don’t see the need to schedule regular vet visits.
A third reason that many people avoid taking their cats to the vet is that, let’s face it, it’s not usually a pleasant experience for anyone involved. If you’ve ever tried to coax a cat who has suddenly accessed his inner mountain lion into a crate, you know what I’m talking about! Vet visits are frequently a source of stress for both animal and owner.
The Fear Free Initiative
Thankfully, vet visits don’t have to be miserable ordeals for felines and their humans. “America’s Veterinarian,” Dr. Marty Becker, has developed a system that’s designed to “take the pet out of petrified” when it comes to vet visits. His Fear Free Initiative is intended to get veterinary practices certified as Fear Free practices, meaning they take all precautions and make all efforts to make feline veterinary visits stress free (or at least a lot less stressful!).
Even if your vet isn’t Fear Free certified (yet!), there are things that you can do to make a vet appointment much less stressful for your kitty. A smooth visit starts well before you walk in the office door.
Here are a few things you can do in advance of your appointment.
1. Get your cat used to the crate.
If your kitty only sees his crate on the days when he ends up at the vet, then he’s sure to disappear the second he sees it come out of storage!
Instead of waiting until the last minute, set the carrier out a few days, or even a week before the visit. This lets him get used to the carrier and gives him the option to check it out on his own terms. I even sneak a few treats into the carrier on occasion, for a welcomed surprise when kitty enters to hang out. You may even want to try taking him for a quick practice spin around the block a few times to get over any nervousness about the ride in the car.
2. Make the crate comfortable.
The carrier should be roomy enough for your cat to stand up and turn around in. You may also want to add some comfy blankets, a few of his favorite toys, or some yummy treats (unless his appointment requires him to fast)—anything to make it homey and enjoyable.
3. Help your cat stay calm.
Spray a calming pheromone like Feliway or an herbal solution like Rescue Remedy into the crate about a half hour before your trip. These products have been shown to prevent and decrease anxiety in cats. Also, don’t blare your favorite tunes in the car! Instead, talk softly and reassuringly during the car ride over. The familiar sound of your voice can do a lot to help him relax.
4. Think about the practice you choose.
If the sight of a strange dog sends your cat into an instant panic attack, you may want to think about choosing a veterinary practice that caters exclusively to feline clientele. Another option is to find one that keeps cats and dogs separate by providing a special entrance and waiting area for cats.
5. Ask your vet to look into becoming a Fear Free Certified practice.
If you AND your vet work together to make the experience less frightening, it will be easier to make and keep those critically important checkups.
You may not be able to completely eliminate your kitty’s stress, but these suggestions should help him (and you!) have a much better experience. Even though it takes a little effort and planning, taking your cat to the vet is one of the most important things you can do. An annual checkup is the best way to catch and treat medical issues before they grow into bigger problems.
If it’s been a while since Fluffy’s last vet visit, Take Your Cat to the Vet Day is the perfect time to go ahead and schedule an appointment. You’ll be glad you did—after all, you want to ensure that your kitty lives a long healthy life purring by your side!
Kristen Levine Pet Living is the place for stories, science & advice for living happier and healthier with pets.