Taking your cat to the vet is all part and parcel of pet ownership, but vet visits are something that many felines find stressful. Knowing how to reduce cat stress at the vets is important. Our feline friends are experts at hiding signs of illness, however from monitoring changes in your cat’s weight, to measuring cat blood pressure, there are lots of checks that your vet can do to help keep an eye on your pet’s wellbeing and diagnose any underlying health problems sooner.
So, first things first….
Hiding tablets in food and voluntary intake:
Sometimes it is very obvious that your cat is stressed. They may hiss, growl, or even show signs of aggression if approached. However, more often than not, cats show stress in more subtle ways, and may become more withdrawn. Signs that a cat is stressed include:
- Crouched position with legs bent and tail held close to the body
- Dilated pupils
- Ears flattened against the head
- Urination and defaecation
Why it is important to reduce cat stress at the vets?
Minimising stress when you take your cat to the vets is really important. A stressed cat is trickier to handle, both for you and your vet. As well as altering behaviour, stress can affect the results of tests, making it much harder to get an accurate diagnosis. This is especially true when it comes to measuring cat blood pressure.
Did you know that cats suffer with ‘white coat syndrome’ too? This is also known as stress hypertension. On average, the white coat effect (brought on by the sight of a vet) can increase cat blood pressure by 15 to 20mmHg. In one study, cat blood pressure increased by a staggering 75mmHg!1
How do I prepare my cat for a vet visit?
Cats are also great at reading our body language so if you have a routine of preparing for a visit to your vet practice or feel stressed yourself about the visit, your cat will pick up on it. Try to stay calm and avoid making elaborate preparations that your cat might recognise.
Which type of cat carrier is best?
Minimising stress starts before you and your cat have even set foot in the practice and a key initial step is to choose a suitable cat carrier. Hard carriers are often best because they are stable and sturdy, and top-loading carriers or those that can be easily dismantled make access easier.
- Top loading carriers are better than those which only have front door entry
- Dismantlable carriers enable your cat to be examined in the bottom half of the carrier which can make some felines feel more secure
Whichever cat carrier you choose, your cat should think of it as a safe place that they enjoy being in, so..
- Leave the cat carrier out so it becomes part of the furniture
- Place it in a favourite sunny spot
- Add a bed and a few treats
If you dig it out of the shed when it is time to go to the vets, your cat will only associate it with a negative situation!
How to reduce cat stress at the vets
Carrier training complete, here are some extra stress-reducing tips:
- Cover the carrier with a towel
- Use facial pheromone sprays like Feliway
- Cats like being up high, so put the carrier on a bench, shelf or cat tree if available
- Many vet practices have cat only waiting areas..
- .. or why not wait in the car until your appointment?
- And above all, stay calm as pets pick up emotional cues from us!
Cat blood pressure measurement: minimising stress
You may wonder if there is anything else that can be done to keep your cat calm at the vets, especially if they have an appointment for a blood pressure measurement. Rest assured that your vet or vet nurse is likely to put a few extra measures in place to keep your feline cool, calm and collected. They may…
- Book the appointment at a quieter time of day
- Choose a quiet location for the appointment, away from barking dogs and noisy telephones
- Let you cat acclimatise to their surroundings by asking you to leave your cat with them for a few hours
- Even just ten minutes to get used to their surroundings reduces stress hypertension in cats
- Use minimal restraint and a ‘less is more’ approach to handling, taking the time to get to know your cat
- Use treats, praise and fuss to make your cat’s vet visit a positive experience
- Belew A.M., Bartlett T. and Brown S.A. (1999) Evaluation of the white-coat effect in cats, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 13(2): 134-142