02- Travel to the Veterinary Clinic – Not so Cat Friendly!
A critical factor that prevents cats from receiving healthcare is the stress and difficulties people have catching, crating, and travelling with their cats to the veterinary hospital. The first step in healthcare is to educate people about how to make the trip to the clinic more pleasant. The point of first contact is the client’s phone call to the clinic. At this time, the veterinary healthcare team member should ask the client several key questions prior to the veterinary appointment including:
1. Do you have a cat carrier?
- All cats should come to the clinic in a carrier. If you don’t have a carrier, we can loan you one (see callout box below)
- Each cat should come in their own carrier. Carriers provide secure containment
- Sturdy rigid carriers that open from the top and the front are best because they can easily be taken apart. This allows the cat to remain in the bottom of the carrier during most of the examination, which may be a more familiar and reassuring place than exposed on the table
- Be sure to secure the carrier in the car on the floor of the back seat. The front seat is not safe because an airbag can injure a cat even in a carrier, a free standing carrier can become a flying missile or a seatbelt can crack through the carrier should an accident or sudden stop take place
- When carrying the carrier, keep it stable and horizontal for the comfort of the cat
- Cover the carrier (e.g., with a towel) to reduce frightening visual stimulation
- When carrying the carrier, keep it stable and horizontal
- For more tips, see the AAFP/ISFM Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines (see Resources)
2. Do you have difficulty getting your cat into the carrier? Do you feel anxious about the visit?
The carrier can be a comforting place for the cat instead of a stressful place. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Leave the carrier in an area of the home where the cat frequently spends time
- Feed the cat in or near the carrier
- Place familiar bedding or some clothing inside the carrier as well as treats, catnip, and toys
- Use synthetic facial pheromones (e.g., Feliway™) in the carrier 10-15 minutes prior to travelling
- Travel with kittens on a routine basis for short (5-15 minutes) non-veterinary trips
- Some cats are prone to motion sickness. This unpleasant experience can be reduced by withholding food (but not water) for a few hours before the trip. If this is not effective, therapy for motion sickness with a drug such as maropitant or dimenhydrinate can be prescribed by the veterinarian
- Cats that have had previous negative experiences may benefit from having a veterinarian prescribe medication such as gabapentin or trazodone to reduce anxiety before the visit
Train your cat videos at:
- Cat carrier training, parts 1 and 2
Visiting the vet (video): tips for a stress free trip
AAFP/ISFM Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines:
Cats and Carriers: Friends not Foes (video):
Using Feliway to decrease stress from travel and other situations:
Loaner Cat Carriers
It is very useful to make loaner carriers available. These may be new carriers or carriers donated by clients that are in good condition. They can be disinfected and labeled with the clinic’s name and contact information. A soft, clean towel can be put inside for comfort and traction.
Look for these products at your local pet supply store:
- Petmate Navigator cat carrier
- ThunderShirt for cats