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Reducing Your Cat’s Stress

It is an unfortunate truth that most cats do not receive the medical care that they deserve and need, as a result of the stress associated with car travel and vet visits. It is all too common that cats do not come in for many routine examinations because of perceived stress associated with the visit, leading to delays in diagnosis of diseases that may be more successfully treated if they are caught earlier.

We as Veterinary Professionals recognize this and are making changes in the way we approach the feline experience, to try and reduce this stress as much as possible. There are things that you as pet owners can do as well, to make your cat’s experience less stressful.

Understanding your Cat’s Behaviour

  • Cats are most comfortable with the familiar, respect their need for time to get accustomed to new people and situations
  • Stay calm – animals sense our anxiety and frustrations
  • Cats do not learn from punishment – instead, reward good behaviour (if they are acting calm in the car or the exam room, give a treat or some affection)

Make the Carrier a Positive and Familiar Environment

  • At home, leave the carrier out and accessible in a room where your cat spends a lot of time
  • Place soft familiar bedding, treats and toys inside the carrier
  • It may take weeks before your cat trusts their carrier – remain calm and reward good behaviour
  • If you are still having trouble, you may need to assess the carrier itself

What type of Carrier is best?

  • A simple, hard-sided carrier that opens from both the front and the top
  • Make sure the carrier has an easily removable top – this allows for the carrier to be easily taken apart in the exam room, so that a fearful cat can sit in the bottom half for his or her exam
  • A carrier that requires a stressed cat to be “dumped out” or pulled out is not ideal, this will increase their stress levels
  • In the car, fasten a seatbelt around the carrier so that it stays put

Getting an Unwilling Cat into the Carrier

  • Put the carrier in a small room with minimal hiding places, then slowly and calmly bring the cat into the room and close the door
  • Do not chase the cat into the carrier – encourage him or her into the carrier with treats or toys
  • If that doesn’t work, place the carrier in such a way that the front door is facing a wall; take the top half off of it and then gently place your cat in the bottom half; quickly replace the top and secure the carrier
  • Remember to use familiar bedding, and consider spraying the carrier with Feliway, a calming pheromone spray, prior to putting your cat inside

Coming Home, Keep the Peace in a Multi-Cat Household

  • Since cats are very sensitive to smells, one cat coming home with a different scent can lead to tension between your cats
  • Leave the cat who was at the Vet’s in the carrier for a few minutes to see how the other cats behave; if there is no tension, simply let your cat out of the carrier; if you sense tension, bring the cat in the carrier to another room with food, water, and litter for 24 hours
  • If there is still tension when you let your cat roam the house after 24 hours, consider Feliway next time, and contact your Veterinarian for other suggestions

Written by: Dr. Kristina Dudley

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