Preparing Your Cat for a Trip to the Veterinarian

prep_for_vet_trip-_catsEven though cats are traditionally independent creatures, you are the most important person in your cat’s world. Next to you, the second most important person in a cat’s life is the veterinarian. These animal doctors have two major goals: to keep animals healthy for as long as they can and to care for them when they become ill. Pretty simple, right?

Keeping your cat healthy requires exercise, good diet, and consistent medical care. Your veterinarian can help you with all three components of your pet’s healthy lifestyle. Since you and your cat will make many trips to the veterinary hospital over the years, it’s best to start preparing your kitty for these visits as soon as possible. 

Before the first visit

First, prepare your cat for car travel. Before actually going to the veterinary hospital, take practice car trips and provide a treat when you reach the destination. If your cat enjoys traveling in a vehicle, going to the veterinarian is much easier.

"If your cat enjoys traveling in a vehicle,
going to the veterinarian is much easier."

To keep both you and your cat safe for the trip to the animal hospital, always place your kitty in a cat carrier. Cats like snuggly confined areas, so they learn to tolerate carriers easily. Well in advance of the veterinary visit, place the empty carrier, door open, on the floor next to the kitty’s food bowl. Line the carrier with a soft towel. The following day, place the food bowl just inside the carrier door so the kitty only has to insert his head to eat. The third day, you can move the food bowl further inside the carrier. This gradual technique should help your cat see the carrier as a friendly, welcoming place that he enters without much coaxing.

If your cat is still hesitant to breach the carrier’s door, gently nudge him inside. If he resists, remove the top of the carrier, lie him down on the towel, and replace the top. If this doesn’t work either, gently but firmly, grasp your cat by the nape of the neck (scruff) and deposit him, tail first, into the carrier.

For cat owners who live within walking distance of the veterinary clinic, there are clever cat strollers with ventilated kitty carriers built in that make transportation easy and fun.

 

The first veterinary visit

The very first visit to the veterinary clinic shouldn’t be clinical at all, but rather a fun introduction to a new place. When scheduling your first veterinary visit, tell the receptionist that you want to introduce your cat to the veterinary clinic before his medical appointment. Ask if you can drop in when the clinic is the least busy so that your cat is not overwhelmed by a multitude of strange dogs and cats AND so the receptionist has time to chat with you. Veterinary staff members should be happy to give you a tour of the hospital and make friends with your cat so his first visit a can be pleasant one.

"Veterinary staff members should be happy
to give you a tour of the hospital and make friends
with your cat so his first visit a can be pleasant one."

While in the veterinary clinic, hold the carrier on your lap and talk to your cat in a soothing voice. Position the carrier to keep other animals outside his direct line of vision. You will not see the veterinarian on this drop in, so it should only take a few minutes, giving you an opportunity to get a head start on the real visit by setting up your cat’s medical records. Bring along all paperwork pertaining to previous immunizations, de-worming, heartworm prevention, and medical problems.

The second veterinary visit

Now for the real thing. Before the actual veterinary visit, retrieve a stool sample from the litter box and place it in a plastic bag. Your cat will be grateful not to have to provide a sample at the clinic!

After checking in with the receptionist, sit in a quiet area of the waiting room (if there is one) and speak to your cat in a calm reassuring voice. Again, position the carrier so that he doesn’t see other animals.  A veterinary technician will accompany you to the exam room and ask questions about your cat’s appetite, brand of food, feeding schedule and quantity fed. Be precise. One “scoop” can be one cup or 10 cups! The technician will ask about elimination habits (Are his stools normal? Are there many wet spots on the kitty litter? ), exercise regimen (does he play?), and general health condition (Does he sneeze, have a runny nose, cough, limp, scratch?) To check for intestinal parasites, the technician will retrieve a stool sample from your cat if you didn’t bring one in and may also take a small blood sample to check for heartworms, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and Feline Leukemia.  She will take your cat’s temperature, too.  With all these strange things happening, your kitty will constantly need to hear your comforting voice.

"With all these strange things happening,
your kitty will constantly need to hear
your comforting voice."

After the technician collects the vital signs, the veterinarian will meet you and your new kitty. Your veterinarian will befriend your kitten before starting the actual exam, making you both feel more comfortable! A complete physical exam will include scanning the coat for any dryness, bald spots, irritated areas, or pustules. The veterinarian will look at the eyes from cornea to retina with an ophthalmoscope, examine the ear canals with an otoscope, and open the mouth to assess teeth and gums. The doctor will listen to the kitty’s heart and lungs and palpate his abdomen. She will check for hernias and soft spots on the skull. She will also examine the legs and watch the kitty walk to detect any gait abnormalities.

After the physical exam, the veterinarian will administer necessary immunizations and give you a schedule of follow-up boosters. He will provide medication for intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks if needed and will prescribe medication to prevent heartworms as well.

 

Future Veterinary Visits

The veterinary staff will remind you when to return for follow-up visits. Expect to bring your cat to the veterinarian twice a year for well-health visits. These check-ups will help keep your cat healthy by preventing illnesses through immunizations and parasite control and by diagnosing problems early through lab testing.

"Expect to bring your cat to the veterinarian
twice a year for well-health visits."

Going to the veterinarian will be a breeze if you start preparing your cat early. Of course, it also helps to give a reward such as a yummy treat after each visit, so he will always associate the veterinary hospital with fun!

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

© Copyright 2016 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.



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