On the one hand, medical professionals are a vital part of keeping our cat happy and healthy.
On the considerable other hand, our cats hate everything about it.
From the visit itself to the medicine administration at home, both we and our cat can find this necessary care to be a minefield of stress and possible bad feeling. Here’s some tips to get us through it.
A good cat carrier is an essential. End of story.
To get RJ to the vet hospital, I first got out our largest carrier, set it up on the couch to be open and ready, and pulled back the top flap. This is a top-loader, which is my favorite type.
Then I went in search of RJ.
He’s not feeling well, so he’s hiding. Our cats can hide when they see us get the carrier out. If people have room, they can leave the carrier out, like a dog crate, and make it into a “piece of home.” We don’t have the room, so we get the kind that can be folded and shelved.
Fortunately, I know all of RJ’s hiding places. Of course he was using his most obscure one, which was the last place I looked. He’s not used to being dragged out of any of his favorite places, so he knew something was up. I was already wrestling him as I approached the couch, ready to drop him into the carrier.
Only Tristan was already in it, exploring with great intensity.
My requests to vacate were ignored, and practically dropping RJ on him had no effect either; except the help of confusing RJ about exactly what was going on here. I hung onto RJ with one arm while dumping Tristan out of the carrier. I had RJ in the carrier right away, and the zip is one-handed. Done.
It helps a great deal that RJ is a trusting soul. While he did not want to do this, he didn’t want to hurt me, either. He is not the panicking type; which is when a cat does hurt us.
Swift action and a pre-planned strategy will get the cat safely contained. Focus is our friend. Depending on the cat, this might be a two person operation. We can also throw an old towel over them, containing them on the fly, bundle them up, and put the whole package into the carrier.
Learn more about cat carriers.
What I do is place the carrier on the seat and run the safety belt through the top handle and clip them in. At this point, if not before, the air raid siren part of our journey begins.
I’ve calmed down many cats with Their Song. Unfortunately, RJ is a progger, and it’s tough to sing “Tom Sawyer” by Rush a cappella. I tried finding prog rock on the satellite radio, but what seemed to help the best was silence and low soothing words.
Remember, don’t “shush” the cat with anything that has hissing sounds in it. That’s an aggressive sound no matter what, or who, is making it.
If I’m at a stoplight, I put my hand near the mesh. I continually let RJ know that I was doing this to make his tummy feel better, he was going to come home with me again, and what I had in mind (x-ray and blood panel) was not going to be too bad.
Of course, he was stressed, and had an accident in the carrier. Which is yet another good reason to have a good carrier; mine has a washable soft layer and a waterproof bottom that kept the mess out of the car. My vet’s office took both RJ and the carrier off to clean it all up for me, a service that is greatly worth it. Especially since I was taking a long lunch hour from work and was not dressed for such a task.
The journey back is usually completely different. My cats willingly get back in the carrier, are calm and quiet during the car trip, and only start making noise again as I climb the stairs to our apartment. And it’s different sounds; these are “I’m done with this, get me out!” sounds.
I always open the carrier, let them make their own way out, and expect them to hide so they can decompress.
What we do in the vet’s office depends on the cat. RJ finds it comforting for me to be around, and if the vet is not touching him, I am. Remember, they are cat handling experts; we should let them do their jobs if our cat is acting out about this stressful situation.
During most of the visit, I am also adding verbal reassurances and cat kisses to RJ, provided we are in “down time.” If anything the medical profession likes to call “uncomfortable” going on, it’s actually best that we are not involved it in at all. We don’t want to be a part of this necessary, but upsetting, procedure.
Many of my cats will come back and complain about whatever it was. Now is the time for us to agree that yes, it was awful, and we wish it hadn’t come to this, but we are here to make them feel better. If not currently, to keep them from feeling sick in the future.
We need to be both serene and apologetic. This helps our cat feel a little more calm, and justified about their aggrieved state.
Cats find everything about a vet visit to be a particular challenge. Torn from their territory, handled by strangers, and often surrounded by dogs and other cats who are also broadcasting distress, it’s no wonder our cats find even the prospect of an office visit to be upsetting.
RJ has a particularly tricky chronic condition going on. I was bringing him to the vet to eliminate possible reasons for his issue, and we all agreed that a lateral x-ray and blood panel were minimally invasive (and minimally expensive) ways to get more information on his status.
Based on both of these, he’s a very healthy cat.
Which is good news; he doesn’t have an immediate serious condition. It means we are addressing this issue before it leads to malnutrition or other damage. I am also a fan of setting a baseline blood panel as our cat reaches their older years. It’s a great way to catch problems early, when it’s easier on everyone.
On the other hand, we still don’t know exactly what is wrong, and this second vet admitted to me that we could go nuts with diagnostic tests, and still not know. So, since the first medicine we tried didn’t work, we are moving to a second option, the powerful antibiotic Flagyl, which has a good track record with such conditions.
He also got a B-12 shot, and I took home a second one to be administered a week later. The more we have facility with such procedures (and, of course, a willing patient,) we can avoid cat trauma and save money, too.
My own approach is to spend health money “up front.” We pay for timely altering, the right degree of vaccinations, buy the high quality food, supplement routinely, and offer them a cat fountain.
We keep our cats indoors, provide a physically and mentally comfortable environment, and exchange reliable affection.
All of this adds up to a cat who has a lowered risk of illness, which cuts down on the need for vet visits, and making it more likely we get to intervene in a timely manner.
This means less stress for our cats, and less stress for us.
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There’s more ways to care for our cat with The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See all of my posts on CAT CARE.