Your cat has a vet appointment. So you go to the closet to get out the carrier…and your cat takes one look at it and runs away to hide. You trap your frightened cat and try to put her in the carrier, possibly getting scratched and bitten in the process. Finally, you get your cat into the carrier and get treated to an earful of yowling and meowing. You put the carrier in your car and risk your cat becoming physically sick from her anxiety. And all this chaos happens before the actual exam—which is a whole different adventure!

Sound familiar? If you’ve got an indoor cat, it might. Indoor cats often don’t like to leave their home environment—and that creates problems for their owners, says Cascade Hospital for Animal’s Dr. Cherie Anderson, who has a strong interest in feline medicine. Routine vet visits are essential for a cat’s overall health and well-being. But the struggle involved in taking a cat to the vet and the stress associated with the visit itself leads some owners to avoid wellness checks or preventative care visits altogether. “They perceive their cat as completely healthy and so they don’t feel the stress is worth them bringing them in,” said Dr. Anderson.

Less stress

In an effort to make cat owners more comfortable about bringing their cats for their well visits, the veterinarians at Cascade Hospital for Animals and Breton Village Animal Clinic are specially trained to make the experience of vet visits as stress- and anxiety-free for cats as possible. Both clinics are certified Cat-Friendly Practices by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. In order to earn this designation, veterinary practices need to follow specific guidelines and protocols. “Starting from home all the way through the visit,” said Dr. Anderson, “everything that we do is designed to minimize the anxiety or reaction associated with the visit so that owners feel like it’s not as stressful of an ordeal to bring the cat in for regular wellness checks.”

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So what does a cat-friendly veterinary exam entail? Cat-friendly protocols involve making the cat’s sensory experience as calming as it can be for an unfamiliar environment. For example, keeping the cat in an exam room free of dogs and commotion; talking in a low, soothing voice; wrapping the cat in a warm pheromone towel; keeping treats or canned food on hand as a treat and for a calming smell; avoiding unnecessary touching, and, when touching is needed, using light, minimal restraint. Leaving the cat in her carrier or on her bed is a great method for keeping her calm throughout the exam.

What can you do?

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You can make the trip to the vet less stressful for you and your cat by keeping yourself calm throughout the process, rewarding your cat’s behavior with treats when she is being calm or sitting near her carrier, and being gentle with her as you place her in the carrier. Use familiar bedding inside the carrier, and consider using pheromone spray on the bedding. 

Dr. Anderson says that although there will always be cats who are overly anxious about going to the vet, overall the CHFA cat-owner family has had a great experience with the cat-friendly protocols. “I’ve had clients say ‘this is the best visit we’ve ever had’ after we use some of our methods,” she said.

Make sure your cat is seeing us on a regular basis! Schedule an appointment today.