Feline Friendly Vet Visits
All of us here at My Vet love our feline companions and know how stressful it can be to bring them in for their annual or bi-annual visits. Because of this, over the past year, we have been working to find ways to make visits more comfortable for both our kitty friends and their owners. In addition to sharing ways that we are making our hospital more feline friendly, we would like to offer some tips that you can use at home to ease the burden of vet visits.
What can I do at home?
The number one issue we hear from owners regarding bringing their kitties in for visits is how difficult it can be to get them to go into their carrier (we’ve all been there!). Because of this, we recommend leaving the carrier out in your home at all times (or at least a few weeks prior to the vet visit) so that it becomes a part of your furniture and not something to fear. At my house, we have our carriers out 24/7 and my cats love to lounge in them and see them as a place to retreat to for quiet alone time. Some cats benefit from having treats placed in the carrier or even being fed regularly in their carrier. You can also close the carrier with the cat in it for brief amounts of time and sit quietly in the car together before going back inside. We also recommend placing a t-shirt or cozy towel of yours into the carrier when it’s time to go to the vet. For extra stress relief, we recommend a pheromone spray called Feliway that can be purchased at a pet supply store or online.
What are we doing at My Vet to make visits more comfortable?
All of us at My Vet have undergone training to help assist us in providing Feline Friendly visits for cats. We’ve learned the best ways to approach cats so as not to seem frightening, and practice using minimal restraint – no “scruffing” here! We want our kitty pals to know they call the shots! Recently, we have designated a room solely for cats and stocked it full of toys, tasty treats, fish flakes, cozy towels and blankets, and a pheromone diffuser. Dogs rarely come into this room, reducing the amount of lingering scents that may be frightening. Additionally, our feline friends will no longer have to wait in the loud lobby where there may be barking dogs that interfere with their personal space, and will instead be escorted directly to the cat room upon arrival. We also know that each cat is different, and we try to tailor our treatment of each cat by keeping stringent notes outlining what works best for every cat we see.
Despite doing all of these things, we know there are still some cats that will get very nervous at the vet and may become reactive. We know these cats are not “mean”, they are merely scared and trying to defend themselves, and we certainly can’t blame them! For these cats, we recommend a medication called gabapentin, which works to reduce cats’ anxiety and also slightly sedates them. My cat, Huey Lewis, is the most loving and cuddly cat of all time at home, but has always been extremely nervous at the vet and would become very aggressive. After biting and scratching me, the veterinarians, and the technicians, he would ultimately have to receive an injectable sedative in order for any treatment or examination to be performed. This went on for years and vet visits were extremely stressful for everyone involved, but especially for Huey Lewis. It was heartbreaking. Finally, after I started working at My Vet, a doctor here recommended we try gabapentin to ease his anxiety. Since then, we have been able to do his exams, draw blood, take x-rays, and even perform an abdominal ultrasound with no other sedation – this ultimately led to us finally being able to diagnose him with inflammatory bowel disease, an illness that had plagued him for years. He is now very healthy and happy and we are all less stressed when he has to come in for his checkups. If you think gabapentin would be beneficial to your kitty, please give us a call and a doctor would be happy to discuss it with you.
We hope that this information makes you feel more at ease when scheduling your cat’s next visit. Yearly and bi-annual vet visits are just as important for cats as they are for dogs, and we don’t want stress and fear to keep them from getting the care that they need.