Preparing your cat for a visit to the vet

Every cat should go to the vet at least once/year for a check-up, and some will need to go more often than this. But many cats hate going in the cat carrier, hate travelling in the car, and hate being at the vets – so it is no surprise that many of us keep our cats’ veterinary visits to a minimum. If this sounds familiar, use the ideas listed here, put together by the team at your local Healthy Pet Club practice, to make going to the vet less stressful for both you and your cat.

Why going to the vet is stressful

Looked at from your cat’s point of view, a trip to the vet involves a lot of potential stressors:

  • They may be feeling unwell
  • Their routine is upset
  • They have to go in the carrier and probably in the car
  • They have no route of escape
  • They may associate the carrier, the car or the vet with bad experiences
  • They are not in control of the situation, and have to undergo unpleasant or unusual procedures
  • They will be handled by somebody unfamiliar.

It is your job to reduce these stressors as much as possible.

Reducing stress – prepare ahead of time

  • Choose a veterinary practice that takes positive steps to minimise stress in their feline patients (e.g., cat-only waiting and examination rooms)
  • If your veterinary practice will allow it, make visits to the practice during which your cat experiences nothing more than positive rewards (e.g., treats)
  • Ask your vet to teach you how to do a ‘pretend’ clinical examination so that the procedure is not unfamiliar when the vet does it
    • This could include handling their paws, looking in their ears, opening their mouth, etc.
    • Be gentle and reward cooperation using treats, catnip, or by massaging their neck and chin
  • Take steps to ensure that your cat is happy to be in the cat carrier, and then take short ‘practice’ car journeys in which you drive a short distance and then come straight home
  • Read our previous article about transporting cats
  • Schedule your appointment for a time when the waiting room is likely to be quiet, and the vets are unlikely to be behind schedule
  • Talk to your vet about the use of a pheromone spray, or anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medication.

Reducing stress on the day

  • Make sure you can find your cat on the day of the appointment
  • Put something that smells of you, or a familiar toy, in the carrier
  • Stay calm yourself, and use positive reinforcement (treats, stroking) throughout the experience
  • When in the waiting room, cover the carrier with a blanket if this helps your cat to remain calm.