cat frightened

Getting Your Cat Ready for the Vet

If you own a cat, you want him or her to live a long, happy life. But to do that means regular visits to the vet – and chances are that you dread this almost as much as your cat does.

Here, from cat-care experts, are some tips on what you can do to make vet visits as stress-free as possible for your cat.

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), cats are most comfortable in familiar surroundings.  The carrier, your car and the vet’s office don’t fall into that category. So you need to work on a positive approach to reduce stress, which can lead to bad behavior.

The AAFP recommends that you give cats rewards if they sit calmly in or near the carrier in your home.  Put the carrier in a room where the cat spends a lot of time, and line it with a familiar towel or bedding to make it comfortable and comforting.

Accustom them to the kind of handling they will get at the vet’s, such as examining their hands, paws and mouth. (Editor’s note: Do this one very small step at a time so as not to aggravate your cat.) When they do well, reward them with a treat, a play session or extra affection. Felines do not learn from punishment or force, the AAFP says. Sometimes, the AAFP says, you will have to “practice” for days or even weeks.

However, the AAFP says, if a cat needs to go suddenly to the vet, there are some steps you can take to minimize stress: put the cat in a small room that doesn’t have too many hiding places. Remain calm; don’t try to chase the cat into the carrier. Use small treats to persuade him or her to enter. Or, the AAFP says, you can cradle your cat and drop him into a carrier that has a top opening.

Another suggestion: find a cat-friendly vet that focuses on felines in his or her practice. The AAFP has a nationwide guide to such vets. Click here for the website.  Ideally, a vet will have separate waiting areas for cats and dogs. You might also want to ask your vet, ahead of time, for some stress-reduction strategies. As you would do for yourself, come prepared with a list of questions to ask the vet.

Once at the vet, it’s important to stay calm, the AAFP says. Cats pick up on their human’s anxiety or frustrations, and they may become frightened or anxious themselves.

For more information from the AAFP about vet visits for your cat, click here.

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