I don’t believe that you can’t totally prevent cat fear at the vets, but you can do things that help to reduce it.
Having read Ruth’s double whammy (two cats at the same time) session at the vets, I thought I’d pass on the advice of Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson¹ about how to minimise the fear and anxiety a cat feels when taken to the vets.
Even bold and confident cats can get frightened at the vet’s clinic. Is there is one cat alive who doesn’t hate it? Temple Grandin has a method for handling a cow and she recommends the same for cats! These are basic principles. There are three:
- The cat’s owner should use “calm, steady movement” when handling a cat that is going to the vet’s. Jerky or sudden movements make things worse.
- Slippery surfaces can unnerve a cat and the examining tables of vet’s clinics can be slippery. So, Ms Grandin suggests taking a non-slip bathmat and placing it on the table. I am not sure if a vet would accept that, but I suppose he would.
- Firmly stroking a cat applies deep pressure and calms a cat. This appears to be a reference to the same principles behind the Thundershirt.
The next thing to do is to take steps to make sure your cat is not anxious about being in a cat carrier. It needs to feel like a safe place to be for your cat.
Temple Grandin recommends:
- Food treats be fed to your cat while inside the cat carrier
- Your cat be left in the carrier for longer and longer periods to desensitize him to being in the carrier (my words). This is a form of training, if you like, in preparation for a vet visit.
The idea is to get your cat to be relaxed in the cat carrier before going to the vet.
OK, that is Temple Grandin’s advice. I am not sure it is that great, to be honest. Although I respect her skills and knowledge. Personally, I don’t think you can remove the anxiety and fear element from the cat when going to the vet. Almost whatever you do, it will be a difficult for a cat to accept calmly and we have to accept it.
Ms Grandin makes the interesting point that black cats have a calm nature and are less aggressive than orange cats. She quotes Sarah Hartwell who refers to “laid-back blacks” compared to “naughty torties”. Black cats are friendlier than other cats and are better able to deal with social life. Black cats are also said to be healthier than other cats. All this is due to the colour of their fur. I don’t see this as hard science but there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to support it.
Black cats would seem to be the best for the vets! Now, I have to gently disagree based on my experiences with Charlie, who is jet black (with a hint of rust). Perhaps, though, Charlie had a very bad experience before, during and after a visit to a veterinary clinic when he had his right foreleg amputated. That sort of experience may have scared him.
Associated page: Taking Your Cat To The Vet
- Animals Make Us Human pages 77-80.