A well-known website has an article about a cat who was traumatised after a veterinary clinic visit. I thought that was an exaggeration and moved on. However, when I researched “cats traumatised after vet visit” I discovered a rash of similar stories. It seems that a significant percentage of cats are traumatised after visiting a veterinary clinic. And it also seems that the procedures carried out at the clinic need not necessarily be particularly traumatic.
It appears that the simple experience of being inside a veterinary clinic, a strange place with strange people and other animals, results in what one Reddit.com visitor said is PTSD in domestic cats. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some cats may suffer some form of PTSD after a prolonged veterinary visit.
There are some quite distressing stories on the Internet which supports this. For example, one lady took her cat to a vet for a blood-pressure check because she suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The only procedure she underwent was a blood-pressure cuff squeezing her hind leg. She was at the veterinary clinic for eight hours, however. The reason for the long stay was to allow her cat to be in a relaxed state when the blood-pressure was taken.
However, it appears that this was a bad idea. I would doubt that she ever entered a relaxed state because of the difficulties of settling down in such a strange environment. The cat’s owner thought there was logic behind the suggestion that she stayed in the clinic for a long time but in retrospect she said that it was a bad idea. She said that the next time her cat needs a simple procedure she will try and do it herself at home.
It took her cat about 10 days to get back to normal. Her cat suffered from lethargy, loss of appetite and her breathing was alarming to her owner.
In another story, a nine-year-old cat was taken to a veterinary clinic for vaccinations: a rabies jab and another, but the owner is unsure what it was. On the cat’s return his behaviour had changed completely. His super laid-back and chilled out, charming character had disappeared. He slept in his owner’s bedroom all day and wouldn’t come out. He did not eat and when picked up he meowed constantly, complaining. The owner was asking for advice on the Reddit.com website. He did not get it.
My gut feeling is that his cat was one of those rare examples of side effects after a rabies jab. The cat was suffering and didn’t want to know about anything or anybody. Rabies jabs are obligatory in America. Even indoor cats have to have rabies jabs. But vaccinations are not 100% safe and my mind immediately turns to the coronavirus pandemic were in some countries there is a very poor uptake of vaccinations when they are offered. France is a particular case in point where around 40% of the population agree to being vaccinated despite the clear benefits.
But this sort of story about cats visiting veterinary clinics for vaccinations reinforces a negative perception of the dangers of vaccinations.
In another, ask the vet, Reddit.com page, a visitor said that his cat had become traumatised after a vet visit. The cat was taken to the vet for a “fairly invasive checkup”. He came home “with a completely change personality”.
The cat went into hiding, avoided eye contact and was on edge. He ate but did so with fear, his owner said. His cat wanted to do one thing: to hide, to be on his own. He did not want to be petted. His owner thought that he had got PTSD from his veterinary visit. He was looking for advice on the website and did not get it.
A further story on that website is worrying. Once again the person was asking for advice. His cat is a FIV cat and was at the veterinary clinic for spaying. A routine surgical procedure. When she returned home his “sweet and active” cat had changed completely. He said, “She growls every time a kitten approaches, rejecting them completely. The cat just wants to sleep, is out of energy and refuses to eat”.
She even started to eliminate inappropriately and was grumpy and quiet, “always crouching”. He believes that the way they took her blood traumatised her. He said that the veterinarian “wrapped her in a blanket without even leaving her head uncovered, and she screamed all the time. It was from this moment that her behaviour changed.”
These three examples were chosen at random. There are of course others. I myself am an example but it was not a veterinary clinic. I took my female cat to a cat grooming business because she was matted. She came back traumatised. You don’t know what happens because you aren’t there. You wonder how people treat your cat because they don’t love your cat as you do. When you operate a business a cat becomes a patient to be processed in some places. Does some of the sensitivity towards cats disappear under these circumstances?
Another issue is this: cats can be difficult to handle. They have claws and teeth and they use them when they are defending themselves in hostile places. They perceive veterinary clinics as potentially or actually hostile places. Veterinary staff are going to use procedures and methods to protect themselves from being scratched and bitten. They might be quite forceful. This leads to further aggression in the cat. This is not a good situation. Veterinary staff will say it is necessary to handle cats like this sometimes but there is an element of brutality about it which can be traumatic for the cat.
Cats taken to vets less than dogs
It’s no wonder that cats are far less likely to be taken to a veterinary clinic compared to dogs according to the AVMA in America. There are two reasons: cats are independent and therefore there is a looser connection between cat and person but also because people are put off by the trauma of taking their cat to veterinary clinic. I’m referring to the trauma for the cat and the the owner.
Many good visits
That said, many veterinary clinic visits are perfectly fine. We must not exaggerate. We must not paint an incorrect picture. And it probably depends upon the individual cat. Some cats are more robust in character. However, judging by the stories that I have read, there is a percentage of cats who genuinely suffer psychological trauma during a veterinary visit.