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.
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.
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. .
“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.
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.
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