This whole week has been National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week, and today even the savvy dog folks like Magical Dawg and Fidose of Reality are promoting the idea. Dogs care about their cat buddies, too (even if they won’t always admit it!).
Cats get the short end of the health care stick. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats visit the vet much less frequently than dogs. It’s not that felines are healthier, although cats do hide illness better.
Cats also are insured less frequently, which is why Pets Best Insurance has launched a low cost feline-only illness cat insurance plan to help cat owners provide the best veterinary care to their pets. You can get a free quote here.
I also got an email on behalf of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation noting that summertime claims often increase due to pets spending more time outside. Even healthy cats that are kept safe indoors need “well-cat” exams once or twice a year. But many cats hate the vet so much they morph into “Demon-Kitty.”
Cats protect themselves from stranger danger. What’s familiar is safe, while anything new or different raises kitty suspicions. A vet visit delivers a triple-whammy by changing the cat’s routine, environment, and exposure to strangers.
7 REASONS CAT HATE VETS & WHAT TO DO
Crate Expectations. Cats learn very quickly to recognize cause-and-effect. The appearance of the cat carrier prompts kitty disappearing acts if used only for vet visits. Make the carrier part of the furniture. Add a fuzzy bed or catnip toys inside, to create a pleasant association. Check out this award-winning video on cat crate training tips from Catalyst Council.
Car Rides. While humans see out windows and know what’s happening, the cats-eye-view from the carrier offers movement without warning. Odd sounds and being in a strange environment raises cat blood pressure and might even prompt motion sickness. Covering the view with a towel over the carrier’s door helps some cats. But simply taking Kitty for many short rides around the driveway (and never going to the vet!) followed by treats or games can diminish the nerves. Check out these 8 tips for car travel with cats.
Scary Smells. Cats experience life through their nose. The unfamiliar scent of the hospital—antiseptic, strangers, other animal’s fear—can ramp up kitty fright factor. A pheromone product like Comfort Zone with Feliway that the kitty sniffs can help sooth environmental stress. Feliway comes as a spray that can be spritzed on a towel inside the carrier.
Strange Pets. Nothing turns cats into hiss-terical claw-monsters like barking dogs or meowing cats. When confined inside the carrier, your frightened cat can’t flee, so the fight-or-flight instinct leaves few options. She may redirect her fear aggression on the nearest target—you, or the vet staff. Ask to schedule your cat’s exam early in the morning or at slow times to avoid a busy waiting room. Some vet practices have separate waiting rooms and entrances for cats and dogs so your pet never has to see or hear a strange critter. For my Seren-Kitty, the feline Thundershirt helped enormously to reduce kitty stress. I’ve even got a video of Seren wearing the thundershirt here.
Cold Table. While cats may hate getting into the carrier, being dumped on a cold metal table elevates the “strangeness” of the experience. After all, Kitty-Boy’s preferred lounging spots are the windowsill with a view, the soft top of the sofa, or a table underneath a warm lamp. Take along a towel or even the cat’s bed that smells like your cat to make the exam table more feline friendly. Some cat specialty practices have exam room windows with bird feeders outside, or water fountains and fish tanks for kitty viewing distraction.
Weird People. The vet and clinic staff love animals, but to your cat, they’re from Mars. Maybe they wear uniforms and smell like dogs (spit!), and don’t ask permission to pet. The cat might be handled by several different people—the vet tech for temperature or stool sample, for example, and later the veterinarian. Reducing the numbers of individual handlers may help. Scheduling enough time so the cat doesn’t feel rushed also can ease the tension.
Rude Handling. Having a cold thermometer inserted into kitty nether regions is no way to make friends. Needle sticks for vaccinations aren’t much fun, either, but are necessary. The veterinarian and staff often need to hurry the exam along. It’s up to owners to offer treats or toys during and immediately after any upsetting procedure to help change how your cat feels about the vet visit. It can be helpful to find a cat friendly practice–here’s a list to start you off.
Cats remember discomfort, fear, and bad experiences and expect them in the future. But they also remember GOOD experiences and anticipate accordingly.
Ask about bringing your kitten for “fun visits” to meet and get used to the vet and staff so they can simply play and be pet rather than examined and treated. Repeated happy visits take the scary out of the equation. Make vet visits more pleasant, and your cat will be happier—and healthier.
Do YOUR cats turn into “demon kitties” at the vet? How do you manage the angst? What about pet insurance, are your cats covered?
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!