Cats – They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

Cats

They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

I have two cats, Lily and Lloyd.

I admit when Lily and Lloyd were younger I did not take them to the veterinarian as often as I took my dogs.

Why?

Cats - They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

On the inside looking out

I believed because my cats are indoor cats, never going outdoors, only watching birds and leafs fly by from the inside of a window or door, their health was protected. As if that window or door would magically keep all illness and disease away from the cats. Of course this is not the case, and I now understand that cats need to visit the veterinarian as often, if not more often than my dog does. Why, because cats are masters at hiding their pain and health issues.

Cats - They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

Doors won’t stop cat sickness and disease

Last year I noticed our cat Lily loosing weight even though she was eating more. I blamed our other cat Lloyd for eating Lily’s food, but this was not the case (sorry Lloyd). Lily’s coat became dull, she was extremely active and not sleeping well, a visit to our veterinarian was in order. Turns out Lily was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. It’s because of this visit to our veterinarian that Lily was diagnosed, treated and is now feeling much better. Lily continues to be monitored by our veterinarian on a regular basis to ensure she maintains good health.

On this episode of Vet Chat, Dr.Ryan Llera discusses the importance of taking your cat for regular veterinarian checkups and how you can make it less stressful for your cat to visit the vet.
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“Meow, meow, meow.” Yes, your cat is talking to you. What you hear may depend on how they are currently feeling and what their past experience is. Many people believe that cats don’t need to see a veterinarian as often as dogs and some studies have shown that cats visit the veterinarian less frequently. Reasons often given are that since they don’t go outside they should be healthy and more often that cats are too afraid to come to the clinic for a visit. The fact is, your cat SHOULD visit the vet annually, if not semi-annually. It’s a team effort however to try and make the visit a positive one.

Cats - They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

Lily relaxed and comfortable in the crate

It starts at home with the carrier. How many times do you pull the carrier out of it’s storage and your cat runs under the bed? I know I’ve done it. A lot of the time, cats are scared of the carrier because it is a strange box that they often get stuffed into, can’t see out of, go for a car ride, and end up at the vet clinic with strange noises and smells of other animals. Try leaving the carrier out around the house for kitty to explore, if not all the time, at least for a week before the vet visit. It can also help with the type of carrier you get. I love the ones that have simple clips or open from the top. This allows your cat to even sit in the carrier, which might be calming, while we do our exam.

Cats - They Can Love Going to the Veterinarian!

Lloyd and Lily ready for their veterinarian checkup

Many practices are now working towards being feline friendly or Fear Free as a means of making the vet visit a more relaxed experience. Just because a practice doesn’t publicize this kind of atmosphere doesn’t mean they don’t practice it. Some of the steps we take at the vet clinics are scheduling times for cats only, practicing minimal restraint, pre-visit sedation in some cases, and the use of calming agents such as Feliway. Many of these steps go towards desensitizing your pet to clinic visits.

One aspect we haven’t mentioned that I can’t put enough stress on is getting your cat to the vet as a kitten or when you first adopt them. It’s during these first few visits that we can set a positive experience that will hopefully carry over into later years. Kitten behaviour is shaped during those first few months of life and a good experience can shape future behaviour patterns. If you never bring your cat to the veterinarian for just a health check, of course it’s going to be a frightening experience when they do have to go in likely when they are sick.

These are just some beginning steps to making your cat’s visit to the veterinarian a less stressful experience for everyone involved. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian with any questions you have about bringing kitty to the clinic. Let’s work together to keep your feline friend in top health for many years to come.

Thank you Dr. Llera for keeping us informed and helping pet parents be aware of how we can keep our cats and dogs the healthiest they can be!

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram

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Author: Kelly Harding & Edie The Pug

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26 Comments

  1. I don’t have a cat but thanks for the reminder that Ted needs to have his after summer snacking on all things gross checkup.

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  2. I’ve always wondered how kitty parents take their cats to the veterinarians. When we’re at the vets some of the cats are just fine and some are scared – like all the animals I guess. But for some reason it always seemed more interesting to see how the cat parents interact with he kitties to help keep them calm – great post on an important topic!

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    • Taking a cat to the veterinarian for a visit can be, lets just say, an event for some cat parents 😉
      I am so fortunate that Lily and Lloyd don’t give me any real problems for their visits, however, that has not always been the case with all my cats. I had one cat that would hide and when I finally caught him he would spread his four legs out so I couldn’t get him in the carrier. Then he would always leave a poop present on the vets table during the exam!

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  3. Great tips! My cats are very comfortable at the veterinarians office, but like you said, it starts with the carrier and car rides, and they like both of those things (due to lots of treats) too!

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    • Treats help! Except when you have a cat like Lily that refuses all treats – can you believe it?!

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  4. We rescued the Rooster and spent a considerable amount of time rehabilitating him. He was not socialized and not at all well traveled. We’re working on it, but he still yowls and poops en route to the vet.
    Lily looks SO relaxed in her carrier.

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    • I hope Rooster is able to relax enough so that traveling and going to the vet isn’t as stressful. I had a cat years ago that would poop on the vet table at each visit!
      I’ve had Lily and Lloyd since they were kittens, I have always kept the carrier out with a towel in it to make it cozy so they like to go into it and snuggle. Makes it much easier for me to get them in there when its time for a vet appointment!

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  5. Those are important tips to make visiting the vet’s less stressful for both the cat and human! Our cat is good about going to the vet’s office and being in the carrier.

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  6. Really nice tips for cat parents. Being proactive and teaching our cats their carrier and vet aren’t scary is so important.

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  7. Great tips, I don’t have cats but Layla is not mad about the vet visits so I turn them into adventures for her which helps

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    • Yes! Make the vet visit an “adventure”! I love that twist on a vet visit!

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  8. Cats DO hide illness VERY well. We also learned the hard way sadly. With our Nub he was mewing and mewing and we could not figure out why. Finally something ruptured in a place we never looked and let’s just say it was horrible but thankfully not a big problem to fix. The pain I am sure was horrible and I do not even want to think about it now. Oh the guilt of a pet parent!
    He is fine thankfully and doing pawsome but we learned we need to get our cats in fast when they are acting in a new way that is off somehow.
    Great article and I hope it helps other cat parents understand not to wait!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience and story of how things can go bad so fast.
      I’m sure it was very scary for you and of course, very painful for Nub.
      I’m so happy to hear that Nub was seen in time and is doing well now.

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  9. TOOOOO RIGHT! A cat needs to go to the vet. I work with Mia Lancaster who runs Place for Cats, a foster network in New York. Her stories of cats who could have been cured with simple medication who are just dumped at NYC’s dreadful ACC are legion and it is terrifying to hear.

    Yes – a cat needs an annual vet visit. Yes, your cat needs injections on a regular basis, and Yes, your cat needs a microchip whether it is an indoor cat or an indoor/outdoor cat.

    Thank you for a post tht can make a big difference to the lives of cats!

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    • It’s a shame that cats don’t get in for regular visits to the veterinarian as often as dogs. As you say, it can be such a simple thing that can be done to make a cat (or dog) feel and be so much better.
      Both my cats (and Edie) are microchipped, you never know if one of them might slip out an open door.

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  10. I love the idea of cat-only hours at the vet! Henry could use some “Henry-only” hours…he’s a big-time barker when he gets excited around other animals and the vets graciously lets us wait in a free examination room.

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    • I’ve not heard of cat-only hours. I think that’s a wonderful idea to help make the visit less stressful for cats.Poor Henry! At least they let you bring Henry into his own room where he is not so stressed.

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  11. We have found that (although for dog) going for “no reason” just in and out to “say hello” was the best decision ever. 🙂

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    • Yes! It makes such a difference if you can “pop” in to your vet’s office, even if it’s just to say hi or get your dog weighed. Then the dog doesn’t feel that each time they go to the vet it’s for a checkup or injections.

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  12. Thank you for an informative post – you are absolutely correct in that cats are masters of hiding their own pain. That’s why annual checks are so important for cats and dogs!

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    • Just because we don’t notice a health issue with our pets, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get regular checkups from their veterinarian.

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  13. This is a great reminder. My grandparents had two cats and I don’t know if they’ve ever seen a vet. Your little kitties look very cozy and comfortable in their transporters! Desensitizing really goes a long way!

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    • I’m very fortunate that my cats are comfortable in their crates.

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  14. Great information! It’s so important to understand why cats (or dogs) dislike the experience and try to make it more pleasant for them.

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  15. Great tips! Our former cat, Otis, was a terror at the vet. He just turned into a whole another (very scary) kitty and sometimes even had to be put under to be examined. Poor guy. Fortunately towards the end of his life when he needed to go in more frequently he calmed down a bit.

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    • I can only imagine he was quite scared of the process of being taken from his comfortable/safe environment and being exposed to the unknown for him. I’m glad that he was finally able to calm down some.

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