Taking Your Cat To The Veterinarian: Ways To Help Calm Your Cat
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
By Rachele Baker, DVM – Do you dread taking your cat to the veterinarian? Does your cat disappear as soon as you get his or her carrier out?
Regular veterinary examinations are very important to help identify health issues that may develop as your cat ages. But for your cat, a trip to the veterinarian involves getting put in a carrier, riding in a car, and then spending time in a veterinary hospital surrounded by other animals and unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. All of this can be quite stressful for your cat.
One thing you can do to make taking your cat to the veterinarian less stressful is to help your cat become comfortable with the carrier well in advance. A week or more before taking your cat to the veterinarian, place the carrier in a room where your cat spends a lot of time and prop the carrier door open. Put soft bedding in the carrier and keep treats and toys inside.
To help your cat feel more comfortable with the carrier, you can try spraying the carrier with Feliway daily. Feliway is a synthetic version of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. Cats rub their cheeks and facial pheromones on objects such as furniture when they are feeling comfortable and happy in their environment. When cats smell this feline facial pheromone, it helps them feel calm and relaxed.
When using Feliway spray in your cat’s carrier, the recommendation from the manufacturer is to do one spray in each corner of the carrier and two sprays on the floor and ceiling of the carrier. Feliway can be sprayed directly on bedding, inside the carrier, or in the car but it should not be sprayed directly on your cat or near your cat’s face. Feliway spray has an almost immediate effect and lasts for four to five hours.
On the day of your cat’s trip to the veterinarian, you can spray Feliway on the inside of the cat carrier and in the car. Allow the carrier and the car to dry for at least fifteen minutes before putting your cat inside.
As with most products, Feliway works well for many cats, but may not work for all cats. If Feliway does not seem to work for your cat, then discontinue using it.
Place a bath towel over your cat’s carrier while in the veterinary hospital reception area. This will help to shield your cat from strange sights and provide him or her with a feeling of security.
While you are in the veterinary hospital, try to keep your cat’s carrier off the ground and away from other animals. Leave the bath towel on the carrier until your veterinarian is ready to examine your cat.
Another product that you can use to help calm your cat before taking your cat to the veterinarian is an all-natural product called Zylkene. Zylkene is a nutraceutical that can help calm anxious cats when they are confronted with stressful situations. Nutraceuticals are products derived from food sources. The active ingredient in Zylkene is alpha-casozepine. Alpha-casozepine is a substance derived from a protein in milk called casein. It is thought that casein is the ingredient in mother’s milk that causes babies to become calm and relaxed after nursing.
Zylkene capsules can be opened and the powder mixed in with a small amount of your cat’s food. Give your cat Zylkene once a day beginning three to seven days prior to taking your cat to the veterinarian. If your cat tends to be extremely anxious, then I would recommend starting seven days prior to your cat’s trip to the veterinarian.
Zylkene has been proven safe and effective for treatment of anxiety in cats in clinical studies and it has worked very well for my cat. For more information about Zylkene, see my blog post titled Zylkene: A Nutraceutical To Calm Anxious Pets.
What type of carriers are best for taking your cat to the veterinarian?
The best carriers for taking your cat to the veterinarian are hard sided carriers with easily removable top halves. Removing the top half of the carrier allows your cat to stay in the bottom half of the carrier during his or her veterinary exam. This may help your cat to feel more relaxed during the veterinary exam, especially if your cat has had time to become comfortable with the carrier in advance of the trip to the veterinarian. In my years of experience as a veterinarian, I have seen many cats that appreciated being allowed to remain on their comfortable blanket in the bottom half of their carrier while I performed their physical exam.
There are more helpful tips in this illustration from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.