Reducing the stress of bringing your cat to clinic and returning home again
Most owners agree that their cats dislike travelling to the vets. We want your cat’s experience at the Cambridge Cat Clinic to be as stress-free as possible. Getting to the clinic is the first step:
A major aim of the Cambridge Cat Clinic is to provide excellent health care, especially preventative treatments, so that cats can live longer, more comfortable lives. This means coming into the clinic for necessary care.
First of all, you need to catch your cat and entice him or her into the carrier! Once captured, a lot of cats feel very anxious going into the carrier and during transport.
Understanding your cat’s behaviour can help to make vet visits easier for you and your cat:
- Cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need time to adjust to new situations.
- They are very sensitive to our anxiety or frustration. Staying calm will help reduce your cat’s fear response.
- Cats don’t like being forced to do anything! If anything they will increase their suspicion of the carrier and dislike travelling even more next time. Rewarding positive behaviour is most effective.
Getting your cat used to the carrier
The goal is to teach your cat to associate the carrier with positive experiences so that they enter it voluntarily.
- Place the carrier in a place at home where your cat likes to spend time.
- Put familiar bedding or clothes with your scent in the carrier to make your cat feel secure.
- Rewards such as a tasty treat, a game or a cuddle (you know what makes your cat tick!) should be given whenever you see your cat sitting calmly in or near the carrier.
- Be patient. It may take weeks before your cat trusts the carrier.
Helping an unwilling cat into the carrier
If your cat needs to go to the vet right away, and is not yet accustomed to the carrier, the following may help:
- Put the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring your cat into the room and shut the door. Move slowly and calmly and encourage your cat to enter the carrier with some treats. Try not to chase your cat.
- If your cat will not walk into the carrier and it has a top opening lid, gently cradle your cat and lower him or her into the carrier. Another option is to take off the top half of the carrier, so that you can lower the cat into the bottom half, and then calmly replace the top. If your carrier only opens at the front, try ‘reversing’ your cat, tail end first, through the door.
- Using familiar bedding and spraying synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway©) into the carrier, 30 minutes before transport may help to calm your cat. Feliway© can be obtained over the counter from the clinic.
Coming home after a stay in hospital – keeping the peace in a multi-cat household
Cats are very sensitive to smells. If your cat has been in hospital he or she will smell different and can result in your cats no longer recognising one another. Aggressive behaviour may occur if one cat perceives the returning cat as a stranger.
How to avoid conflict:
- Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how the other cats react.
- If everyone appears calm, allow the cat out of the carrier.
- If you sense tension between the cats or have had problem with previous home-comings, take the returning cat to a separate room. Provide food, water and a litter tray for and keep the cat there for a minimum of 24 hours, until he or she regains the familiar home smell.
- If there are still problems after this time, contact us for more in depth advice regarding a slower introduction or possible medication to help the process.
- For future visits: Place familiar bedding or clothes with your scent in the carrier to retain the smell of home. Use a synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway©) spray in the carrier, 30 minutes before use. Consider bringing both cats to the clinic together, even if only one of them requires treatment.
Types of carriers and travelling safely
The best carriers are inexpensive hard-sided boxes that open from the top and the front, and can be taken apart in the middle (similar to the one in the picture above). This allows a fearful cat or one who is in pain to stay in the bottom half for examination. Avoid carriers that only open from the front, as often cats have to be pulled out or upended which can be upsetting for your cat. Wicker or canvas carriers are attractive but may be difficult to clean if soiled.
Choose a carrier that is sturdy and secure, and that you will find manageable to carry. The seat belt can be fastened around most carriers to reduce moving around and bumpiness during the car journey. Some cats like to see out, whereas others will feel less worried if the carrier is covered over with a blanket or towel.