How to Get a Scared Cat to the Vet

how to get a scared cat to the vet

Anyone who has had the “luxury” of taking a cat for a vet visit knows that it’s no walk in the park.  It usually begins early on in the day with you fighting with your cat to get them into the carrier.  After you have bandaged up all your scratches and bites, consider yourself lucky that that’s all that happened.

The next situation is the dreaded drive to the vet.  This is where your cats talents will shine.  There will be a lot of well planned hisses as well as cat howling during the long drive.  The drive isn’t even the worst part!  Once you get to the vet you then have to wait in a room with a bunch of people that are dealing with their animals as well.  There is a reason why many cat parents only take their feline pet to the vet less than once a year.  This is mostly due to the situation they must encounter to go to the vet.  You may be one of the lucky ones whose cat is cooler than frozen water on a hot summer day at the vet.

If so, you can still read this and maybe get a few new tips just in case your feline friend decides to go bipolar on you in the next vet visit.  Here are five steps to calm your cat down at the vet.  These tips will also include preventive measures to perform before you even leave your house.  Everyone knows that the best defense is a good offense.  Prepare yourself for the battle before it even begins and you will be spinning laps around your cat.

Step 1 – Prepare Your Cat For The Vet

The first step to calm your cat down at the vet is to start off by giving your cat regular head to tail exams at home.  Even if you don’t know what you are looking for, this will get your cat used to being handled the same way they will be handled by a vet.  Regularly checking your cat can also help you notice a problem should one arise.  You never know, one day you could save your cats life because you caught something at an early stage.

Also take note of any extra sensitive areas your cat has while you are examining him.  Some sensitive areas that cats have in common are their stomachs, paws, and feet.  Your cat may try to bite and scratch you when you examine their stomach.  This is simply because the stomach area is the most vulnerable part of a cat.  This explains why a lot of cats do not like belly rubs.

The next thing to do is get your cat used to being inside of a carrier. 

  • Introduce the carrier to your cat on a day by day basis.
  • The best way to get a cat used to a carrier is to set it open in the middle of the room.  He will be curious as to what it is.
  • If he goes inside the carrier on his own be sure to feed him snacks and even play with him.
  • This is setting up a positive bond between your cat and his carrier.  Giving him treats will reward him.  This is called positive reinforcement.
  • If the only time he gets into the carrier is during a vet visit, there’s a high chance that he will resist it.  You want to get your cat as accustomed to his carrier as you can to make loading and unloading your cat from his carrier easier.
  • Incorporating the carrier into his daily routine will create a link between him and the carrier.
  • Occasionally leave the carrier out and in the open.
  • Encourage your cat to even nap inside the carrier.  This is one of the best ways to get your cat used to it.
  • The key is to slowly bring the carrier into his daily life slowly so he starts to trust it.  In general,always provide positive reinforcement with your cat and his carrier.
  • Never use the carrier as a form of discipline by locking him up inside of it.  This will only diminish all of the progress that you are trying to accomplish.

Packing up and going to the vet will no doubt cause anxiety and stress to buildup in your cat.  Before taking him to the vet you can introduce a sedative.  I recommend this cat calming spray from amazon.  This will immensely help your cat by keeping him in a more relaxed state.  This is also a smart choice if you have never taken your cat to the vet before.  All cats are different and yours can have a major freak out and make the visit far more troublesome than it has to be.

Step 2 – Relax and Calm Your Cat Before Going to the Vet

The next step to calm your cat down at the vet is to get them relaxed before the visit.  Mostly what upsets a cat and puts them on edge is not the destination, but the journey itself.  Getting packed into a carrier and shoved into a car is enough to trigger an anxiety attack from your cat.  The quick answer is to find a proper sized carrier that has enough room for your cat to be comfortable.  You can get away with a bigger carrier in this scenario because of how much room a cars backseat has.  This is the contrary to an airplane or any other form of cramped public transportation.

Some cats will never relax inside a car, and this is where a sedative can come in handy.  If you don’t want to drug up your cat there is still hope.  Your cat will eventually get used to the drive as long there is routine checkups to the vet or driving drills.  You can start these drills by taking short drives (a 5 to 10 minute drive around the block) and gradually increase the amount of time of the trips.  The main goal here is to acclimate your cat to driving in a car prolonged periods of time.  If you can teach your cat to relax during the trip, it will make for a much better vet visit by the time you reach the Dr. office.

Step 3 – Keeping Your Cat Calm at the Vet

The next step is the waiting room at the vet office.  The office will be filled with barking dogs, hissing cats, and loud owners.  It is completely normal for you pet to be nervous in this setting.  It is best to leave your cat in the carrier at this stage rather than hold them in your arms.  You can also try to calm your cat with a few snacks.  If you selected the right cat carrier, your cat should have enough room to comfortably sit, stretch, stand, and make a full turn.  This is important to your pets stress and anxiety levels.  The last thing your cat will want to go through is a ride in a cramped carrier.

If you want to take your cat out his carrier you will need to make sure you bring a harness and leash.  Using a harness and leash will leave you with full control of your cat.  Make sure to purchase a harness that is escape proof.  Some cats are able to free themselves from collars or harnesses.

One way to help with the environment at the vet is to schedule your cat appointment during less busy business hours.  This can also help minimize the wait time that you and your cat will inevitably encounter.  There will also be less distractions from other animals in the lobby to help with the anxiety and stress that your cat may face.  Try to call ahead at the vet and ask if there are any dogs or rowdy animals currently in the waiting area so that you can either be prepared or change the appointment time altogether.

Step 4 – Keeping Your Cat Calm During the Vet Examination

Vets are usually no different than other healthcare providers related to bedside manners.  At first the vet will have a few minutes of casual interaction with your cat to try and put him at ease.  A simply pet on the back and a little neck scratch should do the trick.  If your vet doesn’t, just politely ask that he break the ice with your cat to help calm him down.  Some vet’s get into the habit of performing care straight away.  They are so used to doing it everyday that they sometimes forget proper bedside manners.

Your cat will be poked, prodded, and examined during these visits.  You can help ease your pets discomfort by talking in a soothing voice during the examination.  Something that also helps to calm you cat down is by bringing his favorite toy, a blanket, or a treat to help distract him during the check-up.  Using an item that has your cat’s scent on it is a natural way to calm them down

While at the vet, this is your opportunity to ask any questions or concerns you may have about your cat.  If you have been experiencing any odd behaviors from your cat now is the time to let the vet know.  Far too many people brush off behaviors from their cats because they think it’s normal.  Feel free to call in between appointments if a question pops up in your head that you forgot to ask while at the check-up.  Remember, your cat’s health is in your hands.  It is your responsibility to keep him safe.

Step 5 – Be Prepared for an Overnight Vet Visit

There is no cat that would ever want to spend the night away from home, especially at a vet’s office for care.  Unfortunately, there are many events that are out of our hands when it comes to healthcare.  Illness can strike at anytime as well as routine procedures.  A routine procedure like neutering, receiving treatment for an illness, or injury might warrant an overnight visit.  This can be extremely stressful for cats, but there are a few things you can do to help your cat get through this time.

If your cat will need to spend the night at the vet, bring an object from home.  As I stated earlier, the scent from the object you bring will help calm the cat down due to the familiarity of the scent, not necessarily due to the object itself.  Usually a blanket or piece of clothing is better than a toy.  Be sure to bring his favorite cat food because he may not eat the food the vet office will provide.

Having your car stay the night can also have an impact on you.  Go do something you enjoy or try something new while your cat is away.  You will need to trust that your cat is in good hands.  This will help ease your mind off of the subject.  Before you know it your cat will be back safely at home.

It’s always a good idea to check your cat from head to toe after an overnight visit.  If they have any wounds or stitching from an operation you will want to make sure they look okay before leaving the vet’s office.  Your vet should provide you with information regarding out patient care if there were any surgeries performed.  If your cat was prescribed medication your vet should also tell you how often and how much your cat will need to be dosed.  Also pay attention to any side effects these drugs may have on your cat in case you need to make a follow up call to your vet.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t easy to calm your cat down at the vet.  If you take into consideration what I have explained in this article, going to the vet won’t be bad as it sounds.  Invest in a good cat calmer.  Make sure his cat carrier is big enough for him during the car ride so he is as comfortable as possible.  Bring a familiar blanket and toys for him to have during and after the car ride.  Bring cat treats to reward him for good behavior as needed.  Lastly, be sure to ask the vet any questions or concerns you may have about your cat.

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