The Routine Vet Exam for Cats – Unnecessary Evil or Essential Kitty Care?

Many people avoid bringing their cats in for a vet exam for numerous reasons. For some, the stress of capturing their furry feline friend and bringing them into an unknown environment is enough reason to avoid a veterinary visit. Other people follow the old way of thinking that cats don’t need routine checkups and prefer to wait until their pet is obviously sick to have him or her examined. The problem with this way of thinking is that by the time your cat acts like its sick, the underlying disease process can be far along in its progression, which can make treatment/recovery more difficult. The more we understand our feline friends, the more we recognize the need for a routine vet visit and how to make those visits less stressful on the cat, cat owner, and veterinary team.

Unlike us humans, and even dogs, who readily express how we are feeling, cats tend to hide their pain and illness, similar to their wild ancestors. This can lead to prolonged illness before treatment is sought and in turn, a more difficult recovery. Bringing your cat in for a vet exam at least once a year can help avoid missing subtle signs (i.e. change in grooming/sleeping patterns) that your cat may be in pain or have other disease processes going on. Every year, your cat’s nutritional requirements and environmental needs should be readdressed. Your veterinarian can also supply you with helpful tips on socialization, exercise, parasite control, and zoonotic disease prevention (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans).

Understanding our feline friends is the first step to a happy cat. Some say it’s impossible to truly understand cats. While those people are probably right, there are some things that we can do to make cats more comfortable and ensure a healthy status. It starts with socialization as a kitten. Cats’ primary period of human socialization occurs between 2 and 7 weeks of age. During this time, it is essential to promote calm and positive handling experiences by different people. Provide positive reinforcement for calm behavior. Punishment will only increase anxiety cause your cat to associate the setting with pain and fear.

Getting your cat to the clinic for a vet exam is half the battle. One easy method to help this transition is making your cat more comfortable with its carrier. Leave the carrier out in a room where your cat spends a lot of time and place familiar, soft bedding inside. You can also feed your cat in its carrier and place catnip or other toys in the carrier. The more positive the experiences in the carrier, the less your cat will try to avoid or be uncomfortable while in the carrier. You can do this by occasionally taking your cat outside in the carrier or on short car rides around the block so that they do not always associate the carrier with the veterinary hospital. You can also reserve a special treat that the cat only gets after being in the carrier to ensure a pleasant connection. The ideal carrier can open from the top and the front, with a removable top to help avoid a struggle when getting your cat out of the carrier. The carrier should also be secured in your car with a seatbelt for a safer, smoother ride.

But let’s face it, there are few cats that are going to truly be comfortable in their carrier or not get a little freaked out when going into any other setting except your house. Feline facial pheromone spray (Feliway) was developed to help create a comfortable, familiar environment for your cat during these times of high stress. You simply spray the cat’s carrier or a towel that will be with your pet 30 minutes prior to use. This pheromone also comes in a plug-in diffuser form for anxiety within the household. If your cat was not properly socialized as a kitten and the techniques mentioned are not enough to curve your cat’s behavior, anti-anxiety medication may be necessary. Call your veterinarian prior to your cat’s vet exam to discuss possible options.

Once you’ve made it to the hospital, the fun begins. The sights, sounds, and scent of other animals can be overwhelming. The first step is to stay calm! Your cat can sense and feed off your anxiety. Placing a towel over your cat’s carrier, ideally sprayed ahead of time with Feliway, can make a huge difference in keeping your cat calm and comfortable. Be aware of other dogs in the lobby and try to separate yourself from them if possible. Cats prefer to be higher up on a table or bench as opposed to the ground if possible. Avoid speaking loudly, or rapid movements that can cause your cat to react unfavorably during the vet exam. Don’t forget positive reinforcement for calm behavior.

Hopefully your cat will now be a perfect angel at the veterinary hospital. I encourage you to come tour our hospital and boarding area to see the steps we have made to become more feline friendly.

Blog Category: