12 tips for a great vet visit
In the other article, I gave you an emotional call to take your cat to the vet on time. Now, going to the vet… That is another challenge
Here are a few tips from my experience as a behaviour therapist. How can we make a visit to the vet run as smoothly as possible?
1. Learning at a young age
Kittens under 7 weeks learn what a normal world looks like, with everything in it. So go to the vet with young kittens, even before the compulsory vaccinations. Each veterinarian will be happy to welcome you for a pleasant first meeting. Preferably every week from week 4, if this is possible. If the mother cat is relaxed, she can definitely come. This way, kittens will learn what travelling by carrier and the vet actually is and they will be less surprised at week 8. These cats will experience less stress for the rest of their lives during the visit as well as the transport itself. Make it fun though! Bring toys and familiar blankets with you..
2. Use the right cat carrier
Choose a good carrier with the following properties:
– able to open from above
– no slippery floor
We at Happy Cats are big fans of the Sandy basket at Zooplus, for medium-sized cats. .
3. 1/52 is much better than 1/1
Yes, you got that right. You will be putting your cat in the cat carrier every single week. Or rather: you convince her with something tasty to get into it. Walk in, walk around or next to it, any form of contact will be rewarded with a nice plate of wet food or a healthy treat! Alternate in length and duration each time you train but it really does not need to be longer than 3 minutes..
If possible, ask your vet if it is ok that you come by and sit in the waiting room (if it is cat friendly of course, a panting dog is not part of a fun training) to train. A cat friendly veterinarian will welcome you with open arms..
In this way your cat learns that 51 out of 52 times it is super fun and that one time (or that time you did not see coming) it’s a little less fun, but hey, your cat will keep liking it that way..
4. Cat carrier = fun & safe
It is not a good idea to bring out your cat carrier out once a year. Your cat knows what is in store for her… Put the cat carrier in a nice place in your home, nicely decorated with a towel, blanket or a soft bath mat, during the whole year. Somewhere high up on a cupboard in the bedroom or somewhere in the living room close to you. Make the basket attractive by putting a treat or a valerian toy in there once in a while. .
5. Cat carrier = sacred haven
I want to clear up a misunderstanding here. You read it everywhere: treat the cat in her transport basket. No, not a good idea. That is her safe haven, and then you are going to make it unpredictable and unsafe? Noooooo!.
Give your cat time to get out of her basket (treats, valerian, cuddles, e.g.). If truly necessary you can take her out yourself with soft and sweet hands and you transfer her to another box or container. If your vet does not have it, take it yourself. A tray in the shape of an open low litter tray with a soft, ‘smelling like her’ mat or blanket in it, and you treat the cat in it..
The cat carrier stays neatly next to the container, and is and remains your cat’s safe haven where she can immediately return to after treatment. That container with edges is also a safe place for her and that is where the treatment can take place. After all, that container does not go home with her, and is not her fave sleeping place for the rest of the year..
The edges of the container provide safety, your cat likes to put her butt against something, that feels safe. And her blanket smells like her, so that gives extra confidence..
6. Bring familiar smelling blankets from home
You can put that in the box, or just in front of the cat carrier so your cat can come out and sit on that blanket. So this is not the same as the blanket that is in the carrier, which you otherwise have to pull out from under your cat before using it. You can see for yourself that this is not ideal..
7. Stay calm
Your cat feels something is going to happen, so stay calm, everything is going to be all right. If you are a nervous wreck yourself, go three steps back and let the vet do his or her job..
8. Do not comfort your cat
Do not go comforting your cat when she meows in the wagon, just leave her alone. We always want to change everything that has anything to do with stress, so we do not have to feel bad about it anymore. Be a rock in the surf and just accept your cat’s behaviour and optimise what you can but stop trying to change the behaviour itself. .
Keep it Short and Sweet. If necessary, wait in the car until it is your turn (of course notify the vet that you are there), which is better than sitting in a waiting room full of dogs. Let the vet do his or her job, without too much interference, and get yourself back home asap. .
10. Timing is everything
Do you recognise it? You have to be at the vet at 2.15pm and you had a deadline. You lost track of time and now you have to rush around, getting your cat from under the bed because you do not want to be late..
First of all, too late is better than stressed and a cat jumping against the ceiling. And if you feel it is not going to work out, call your vet to reschedule your appointment. It is what it is. Your cat’s well-being comes first, do not feel bad or guilty about postponing your appointment to a time when your cat is calm. The worst that can happen is that you have to pay for your cancelled consultation at the vet. So be it….
Always put your cat on top of something but never on the ground. On a chair is the least you can do. Are you a vet? Please provide cat shelves in your waiting room and encourage your clients to use them. This height difference is so important..
12. Cat-friendly vet?
More and more vets have an eye for cat welfare in their practice. They have a separate entrance and/or waiting room for dogs and cats, they have adapted the practice area to the needs of the cat with special ‘cat carrier’ parking spaces up high, have special ‘cat consultation hours’, and are aware of subtle stress signals and handling techniques in cats. .
Follow your gut instincts and go to a vet you feel good about because they make your cat feel comfortable.
Love, Anneleen ♡
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