ATTENTION * CONTENT UNDER REVISION* ATTENTION
This article is currently being reviewed with regards to the vocabulary used. However, the tips suggested can be applied without worry. Only a few very specific notions must be reviewed throughout the site, like territory (we now refer to it as environment), marking, pheromones and other specific concepts that have recently been the object of studies.
THE USE OF A CAT CARRIER
Most people get the cat carrier out of the cupboard the very day of the appointment with the veterinarian or at the pet grooming. The cat, unfortunately, has probably already associated the carrier with an extremely unpleasant event. The following will help your cat fear his carrier no longer.
1. Opt for a carrier with a removable top. Thus, the veterinarian will be able to examine your cat without getting him out of his comfort zone, if need be. Moreover, on the day of the transportation, put a small feast in the cage, so chances are high that the cat will run to it. You only have to close the door behind him.
Note: the ideal size of a carrier should allow the animal to stand up, but barely, inside.
2. Get the cage out several days before the planned transportation.
3. Place it in a corner of the living room or the cat’s playroom.
4. Place his favorite treats inside the cage several times a day. Why don’t you also offer him a small feast, from time to time? Your cat will associate the carrier with something positive, something safe even, that will help him manage his stress during the transportation and at his arrival at the veterinarian or the groomer.
Many cats dislike the car. However, most of them will be reassured if you put a blanket over the cage, for they will not see outside. A minority, generally adventurers, prefers to see outside. It is extremely important (I insist on extremely) that the car be neither too hot nor too cold. Make sure that the air conditioning or heating works, or that the car was aired adequately before the animal climbs aboard. From the departure and for the whole duration of the transit, your cat must have a positive experience: offer him treats at regular intervals. If he is scared, he might refuse to eat, which is normal. In this case, try to win him over by playing. Make sure that you have his favorite toys with you and try to entertain him. With a kitten, this is a fundamental step: it shapes his perception of transportation for the rest of his life.
THE ARRIVAL AT THE VETERINARIAN OR THE PET GROOMER
Never come in at the veterinarian carrying the cat in your arms, even if you have done it in the past and everything went well. If you do not own a cat carrier, use a cardboard box with holes in it. You never know what other animal will be in the waiting room and how your cat or this other animal will respond.
If you did not cover the cage with a blanket in the car, it is advised to use one when you come in the clinic. People’s gaze or other animals’ gaze will only increase your cat’s anxiety. Some clinics have a reserved section for cats, but if it isn’t the case, sit in a corner, far from everything and everyone. Offer him some treats or play with him through the cage’s screen door, but leave the blanket in place.
DURING THE EXAMINATION
Most cats know their owners and their body language. If a cat realizes that his owner is anxious, he will wonder what the danger is, which in turn will increase his own level of anxiety. If you know you have difficulty keeping calm during veterinary examinations, make sure someone you trust accompanies you. Or you can explain to the clinic employees that you prefer to wait in the waiting room during the examination. A growing number of animal health technicians and veterinarians know how to deal with cat anxiety. The more anxious the cat, the more they have to take their time. They must not force the cat to get out of the carrier, but rather encourage him to get out or simply disassemble the cage to get access to the animal (hence the importance of a removable top carrier).
During an examination or an intervention, it is possible that the professionals have to use immobilization techniques. Do not be alarmed if they use a blanket to wrap around your cat. The “burrito” technique aims to appease the cat because, being unable to move and defend himself, he becomes inert and waits for it to be over. The use of this technique results in a major decrease of the anxiety level in the majority of cats.
GOING BACK TO THE HOUSE
You own several cats? Better to isolate your cat in a room with his food, his water and a litter box. A few hours later, he will have had time to wash to get rid of the stress or medicine odor he got at the veterinarian which might make it hard for the other cats to recognize him, which may result in aggressions. This isolation is particularly important if your cat has been hospitalized. When you let him out of his isolation room, offer a feast to all your cats, on their respective side of the door, in order to create a positive association at the moment of their reunion.
It is hard to make a visit at the veterinarian a 100% pleasant experience, for injections and unpleasant manipulations are often part of the deal. If you follow the advice featured in this article, your cat will be able to handle his stress better and will go back to his usual behavior faster after his return to the house.