Taking Your Cat To The Vet

I don’t know about you but for me taking my cat to the vet is one of the most stressful things I do. Why am I stressed? I get stressed because I know that he – my cat – will be stressed and I don’t like seeing him stressed. I also don’t know what is going to happen. It is going into the unknown that makes us both anxious.

Veterinary Clinic

It is only the going there that is stressful. Coming back is fine unless the veterinarian gives you bad news and has spent a lot of your money.

The stress starts early in the day. The first problem is getting him into the carrier without fuss. I have a method for that. I tend to do things fast.

The general advice is to train your cat to like the cat carrier by putting in catnip and blankets etc so that he learns to use it as a bed. I can see the advantage of that. It may not work though. You know what cats are like. With the best will and technique in the world, if a cat does not want to do something, he won’t do it – ever. However if a cat is familiar with being in a carrier it will take some of the stress out of using it on a trip to the vet. Wouldn’t it be nice if your cat simply walked into the carrier on your command, sat down and went to  sleep while you drove to the clinic. Does your cat do that?

I think the best way to get a cat into a cat carrier is to use the gentle ambush. I have a carrier that opens up at the top. It is a simple cage. The top entrance makes putting a cat in far easier, I believe. I place the carrier with the top open in another room with a nice smelly (of me) thing in the bottom. As my cat gets very nervous, I will also put in an old cat sleeping blanket thing. I forget what they are called. They have a circle around them. This is used to absorb any urine if his nerves make him pee involuntarily. You do not want to get cat pee on your car seat – ever, never, no way…You will never get it off. The whole car will stink and you’ll have to try and sell the car cheap.

Seriously you can remove cat urine using a specialist enzyme cleaner. Nothing else will do. But then your car will smell of nice enzyme cleaner for the rest of the time that you possess it. You might as well bite the bullet and get rid of it.

Just before it is time to go, I pick him up and carry him to the room where the carrier is. I immediately place him in the carrier. He has no time to know what is going until he is inside the carrier. Fait accompli. As I said this requires no effort with a top loading carrier. A cat might grab the sides if he associates the carrier with bad experiences. But this can be overcome with gentle persuasion. The lid is secured and voilà, off we go.

At this point stress levels are high – mark 4.5 approximately (out of 5). Living in a big city in Europe you cannot bank on the vet having a car park. In the USA there will be acres of free parking. Take your pick. In London, you hope and pray you can find a spot on the roadside that has free parking or any old space. It does not matter if it cost a bit. You don’t want to be parked a long way off. Walking 500 yards with a 15 pound, stressed and yowling three-legged black cat in a cage in the pouring rain is not going to be a nice experience. Finding a car parking spot is one of the known unknowns that make me anxious taking my cat to the vet.

Being at the vet’s is never a problem while waiting to go in. It is a good opportunity to meet someone in fact. You can share some of your stresses. Offload the monkey. You can even pick up a nice woman up at the vet’s. However, I have never seen anyone who is as concerned as me or as talkative as me (probably due to the stress). This may be because I have a terribly deep empathy with my cat. I almost become my cat at these difficult moments.

The next hurdle is the consulting room. You can tell your cat is stressed because his paws perspire. They leave wet paw prints on the table top. My cat just curls up and tries to pretend that nothing is happening and he is back home. The trouble he starts shaking. This must remind him that he is not at home. So he shakes some more. I feel for him and talk slightly nervously with the vet. I always make sure that I manage the meeting. I am thinking of my cat’s health first and foremost and my wallet as a distant second.

However, when I pay at the desk I don’t care what it costs as I am so pleased that I am going home. So is he. The next tricky phase is getting home.

If it is a mult-cat household, the acquired smell on your cat from the vet’s visit can be picked up by the other cats. Body odor is very big in the cat world. To a cat, if another cat smells different he is different. He becomes a stranger. Rarely, it may be sensible to put the returning warrior in a separate room where he can groom himself to re-instate his own smell whereupon all will be well.

In the meantime I reach for a bottle of Chardonnay and pour a little drink for myself as long as it is not before midday. Job done ’til the next time.

I don’t have my cat vaccinated at all by the way. I don’t think it is necessary for the older cat who has been routinely vaccinated in the past. For the last 5 years of the life of my old lady cat she was not vaccinated. Never had a problem. If cats in your area are routinely vaccinated as is likely in an expensive area it creates a health zone where transmittable diseases are minimized or eliminated.

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Taking Your Cat To The Vet — 6 Comments

  1. I love going to the vet because my vet really loves cats and you can see it. His staff is crazy about Sealy, who just lays there and allows the staff to work on him. Furby is also a little angel. He sleeps the whole way there and the whole way home. He didn’t like his last visit for a URI. He was actually shaking while sitting on the table. I felt so bad for him. Sealy, on the other hand, likes to be removed from his carrier and held while waiting his turn. He gets lots of conversation going about the missing ear.

    • I am shaking my head in wonder! That you love going to the vet is great and I envy you. My Charlie shakes like that at the vet. He curls up as if asleep and shakes. It is cute but I don’t like to see it. Sealy will be a ice-breaker. He would get people talking. You should put him on a lead and take him to the supermarket. You’re bound to meet a nice rich man! Just joking.

  2. Oh I dread going to the vets too, what an admission for someone who worked with vets for many years, but it’s different when it’s our own cats as of course, like you Michael, I feel so much for them I imagine I AM them.
    Walter just resigns himself to his fate, never fights us, just sits hopeless in the cat carrier, shaking like a leaf in the waiting room, a limp rag on the examination table. Jo hates being confined more than anything, he protests he wants to be out but when it’s his turn to see the vet he freezes into a solid block and we have to take the basket to bits to get him out.
    Oh the relief when they are allowed back in their basket, we are so happy to be going home we don’t care what it costs.
    I can understand the glass of Chardonnay lol as once safely back home and their freedom and dignity restored it’s definately time to celebrate!

    • LOL. I am pleased that you empathise completely. It is a trial for all people who love their cats. Perhaps it is a kind of test – a way to measure your care. The more anxious you feel when taking your cat to the vet the more connected you are to your cat.

  3. Monty has been to the vet a couple of times lately. I did get him a new carrier that he likes and it is easy to get him in it. It did a good job keeping pee off my car seat, since he did urinate on the first trip to the vet. The good news is that since then he hasn’t had diarrhea at all. We seem to have solved that problem. I tried to not be stressed about the vet visit myself, so as not to stress him. I also gave him hours of outside time before the appointment and inside playtime as well to tire him out. This helped, since he almost fell asleep sitting on the table waiting for the vet. But he still growled at the vet, but he didn’t bite or scratch.

    Monty’s second and more recent vet visit was an emergency, because he had been stung on the tongue by a bumblebee. I should have prevented it. We were outside together and I noticed that he was interested in something, but I thought he had a mouse. Mice usually get away from him, so I didn’t hurry over. Suddenly, he meowed loudly and ran across the yard sticking his tongue out. I called the vet and he said to give a half a Benadryl. I actually cut the pill so he’d get about a third. I put it in a little food. Monty was eating slowly, but I figured his tongue was hurting. Then he was choking. He ran away from me, under the futon. But he came out and I picked him up. His little body was stiff, his tongue hanging out and he was not breathing. There was no hope of getting a pill into him so I threw him in his carrier and called the vet on my way out the door saying that Monty was in anaphylaxis and if they weren’t ready for us he wasn’t going to make it. By this time Monty was breathing, because he meowed once, but only once. Usually I talk to him on the way to the vet, but this was all in silence (other than talking to the vet) from throwing him in the carrier to driving very fast the four blocks to the vet. One more meow from Monty as I ran from the car into the vets and one very miserable meow as I entered the clinic and handed him off to the tech. In back Monty got injectable Benadryl and another shot. He was the most compliant little cat for this– probably because he could barely breathe. They kept him for observation for a few hours. I hated being in my house without him, waiting. When I returned to pick him up, Monty was feeling better. I could hear the snarling from in the lobby. “Do you want me to help get him in his carrier?” But the tech refused. She went back to help. My sister was with me waiting, and we could hear more growling and snarling. The vet and the tech appeared looking pretty freaked out, the vet holding Monty’s carrier, from which was coming a constant deep, ominous, threatening growl. The vet said, “He’s like a different cat!” He cautioned me to be careful at home cleaning him up (Monty defecated on the vet) and the tech handed me some dry shampoo to use. Also, the vet prescribed a steroid to give to Monty for several days at home and he said not to give it until Monty calmed down. But once we got home Monty was calm. He purred like crazy while I cleaned him up and he ate just fine, with no choking this time. I think Monty knew he was in deep trouble, so he was compliant at first. But he didn’t have any gratitude toward the man who saved his life. He’s their vet who specializes in dogs, so Monty hates him with a passion. Saving his life does not give a person a pass for smelling of dog, I guess.

    • This is a compelling story. I didn’t realise that Monty had been so seriously ill. Fantastic job getting him to the vet that fast. I like the idea of tiring out a cat first before putting him in the carrier. I guess you couldn’t have been happier hearing Monty growl. The sign that he was a true cat again.

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