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.
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.