National Take your Cat to the Vet Day, August 22nd

Take your cat to the vet. Say what?!

Those very words can strike terror in the hearts of some owners.  Most cats associate the carrier with all the unpleasant things that happen during a vet visit. After all, this is usually the only time they see the carrier.  Often, cats panic and hide at the very sight of the thing. This is not surprising, given the way things usually go.

You either drag Ernest from his hiding place because he saw the carrier, or sneak up on him and grab him so he doesn’t see it. Then you attempt to gently put him in the carrier, but usually have to force him in.  Most cats are masters at sticking just enough paws out to prevent entry, no matter which way you turn them. Once in, he then gets jostled and swung around on the way to the car. Add to that, the swerving, bumpy car ride and the treetop whizzing view out the window and it’s a miracle if Ernest hasn’t peed, pooped or vomited in his carrier.  Once you get to the vet’s office, there is a waiting room full of sounds, smells, strange dogs, cats and humans.

Well folks, I have good news!  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Here are some things you can do to make taking your cat to the vet a pleasant and drama free experience.

Turn Ernest’s carrier into furniture.  His furniture. Pull the thing out of the garage or closet and clean it. Then plop it down in his favorite room. Take the door off and camouflage it with grandma’s doilies or a pretty towel.  Place his favorite toys, treats and catnip in there along with his favorite blanket sprayed with Feliway.  (Spray with Feliway at least twice a day.  Be brave and even feed him in there.  After a while, it will no longer resemble the death trap it once was, but a comfy hideaway.  It will take time, but with patience and encouragement, you can persuade Ernest that this thing is the bomb.

Be prepared the day of the visit by bringing him in hungry and bring a small baggie of his favorite treats with you. Before you put him in the carrier, prepare your car.  Spray Feliway in the area you will place the carrier. This should be a stable place, such as the floor behind the passenger seat.  Set your radio to soothing music, such as classical or smooth jazz.  You can purchase a CD that has cat calming music to play during your trip. Let the car run to warm up or cool down, depending on weather.

Take everything but Ernest to the car first.  Then place a towel over the carrier and hold it close to you with both arms for stability and take Ernest to the car.

When you get to the vet’s office, find an area to place him that is out of the way of foot traffic. Placing him on a bench beside you or a platform is better than the floor, where Earnest will attract every dog that walks by. Don’t be afraid to ask to be put into an exam room right away.  You may want to call before going inside to ask if an exam room is ready. If one is not, ask them to come out and get you when a room is free.

Once in a room, leave the carrier on the table with the door closed for a bit to allow Ernest to acclimate. Carriers with removable tops are the best option since a good portion of the exam can be done with Ernest in the bottom half of the carrier.

And most importantly, stay calm.  Ernest will know with his cat sense if you are nervous and worried.  After all, you are doing this because you love him. Even Ernest knows that love trumps fear every time.

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