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Cats are Not Small Dogs

By: Sarah Stalnaker, DVM

This was a common saying that we learned in veterinary school.  In essence it meant that cats are in a class of their own and should be treated that way.  I find cats fascinating and have always been a “cat” person.  Therefore, I am alarmed that pet lovers are taking their cat to the veterinarian significantly less than their dog.  Even though there are more pet cats in the US than pet dogs, this trend has been becoming increasingly evident.  This puts our cats at a significant risk for serious disease because cats are designed to hide their feelings of illness until it is almost to late.

One of many reasons that may be causing this imbalance between cat and dog veterinarian visits is that in general cats hate leaving their kingdom.  Even the slightest creak on a cat carrier door will send flashes of fur to the darkest corners of closets and beds.  A few simple measures can greatly reduce your cats fear of the cat carrier and impending car ride to the veterinarian office.

First, always leave your carrier out with the door open so that your kitty doesn’t associate it with vet visits only.  Make it a place of comfort with soft bedding and their favorite cat treats.  You may even try sprinkling cat nip in the carrier or encouraging play with cat toys in and around it.  Once your cat becomes more relaxed in their carrier they will be easier to transport on the day of a vet visit.

Second, anytime your kitty has to leave home try spraying synthetic feline pheromones onto the blankets in the carrier.  These can be purchased at many vet clinics and pet stores.  This may help your cat feel more relaxed and calm.  Also, don’t forget that if you are stressed out over the situation this may help your cat become more stressed as well.  Try to stay calm even if your cat is meowing pitifully the whole car trip like mine are prone to do.  Stressing out won’t make it any better.

Finally, once you are at your veterinary clinic place a light towel over the carrier so that your kitty is shielded from the surroundings.  Try to enter on the cat side of the reception area if you clinic has one and stay away from other animals as much as possible.  Purchase a cat carrier that has an easily removable top.  Most of the physical exam can be performed without removing your kitty from his or her safe haven.

Even though most cats will never be excited about taking a trip to the vet hopefully following some of these simple tips may give your cat less anxiety over the situation.  Keeping up with basic preventative care can go a long way in extending the length and improving the quality of your cats life!