5 Tips to De-stressing Your Cat’s Vet Visit
“Chloe, why do you always hide under the part of the bed I can’t reach? I’ll have to use the broom to get you out and into that darn carrier. We have to be at the veterinarian’s office in 20 minutes!”
You’re not alone if you can identify with the above scenario. Getting your cat to the veterinarian every year (better yet, every six months) is important, even if your cat seems perfectly fine. But doing so can be a challenge. You might feel like the harder you try to get your cat into the carrier or the car, the more resistant your cat gets and the more frustrated you become. Some cat owners might even be so discouraged that they get to the point of avoiding the veterinary practice altogether, which means their cats don’t get the preventive care they need and deserve.
To keep your cat healthy by heading to the veterinarian, you need ways to make the trips less stressful. What can you do? The first step: Think like your cat. Consider what your cat must be feeling after being put into the carrier and then the car. After a stop-and-go trip, your cat arrives at a place where there are lots of strange noises and smells of unfamiliar animals. That’s scary stuff for most cats, especially those that aren’t used to traveling.
While it’s completely normal for cats to translate this fear into biting or scratching, especially when no escape route is available, no one—cats included—wants this kind of behavior to happen. What’s more, when a cat’s arousal escalates to this level, some people think the cat is mean. In reality, there is no such thing as a mean cat—only one that’s scared. So if your cat acts afraid of the carrier, the car, and, hence, the veterinarian, here are some tips to ease that fear—and your frustration.
1. Make the transport carrier your cat’s home away from home.
Use your cat’s carrier as a comfortable resting, feeding, and play location. To do this, keep the carrier out and accessible at all times, not just when you’re getting ready to take your cat somewhere. Line it with a soft blanket, lay favorite toys inside, and drop in treats every now and then. If your cat still doesn’t want to get into its carrier, consider getting a different carrier. It’s best to use a top-loading carrier with a top portion that’s easily removed. This feature lets veterinarians allow cats to stay in the bottom portion of the carrier during most of the visit, which makes cats feel more secure.
2. Train your cat to be a savvy traveler.
Get your cat used to riding in the car, beginning when it’s young for best results. Start by getting your cat into its carrier and carrying it around your house. Then graduate to getting your cat into its carrier and taking short drives around the block. Eventually build up to making a fun trip to the veterinarian for a meet-and-greet play session with no exam. After all these outings—even if you don’t leave your house—give your cat a fun reward, like a treat. Before heading to a veterinary appointment, give yourself plenty of time to get the cat into the carrier. And if you have time to spare, that’s all the better: Letting your cat wait in the carrier before leaving can ease its stress.
3. Let your cat play peek-a-boo.
Create a hiding place for your cat in the carrier by placing a towel or blanket from your home inside. Also, drape a towel or blanket over the outside of part of the carrier. Cats feel more secure when they have a place to hide, and the simple presence of a familiar blanket or towel may comfort your cat during your visit to the veterinary office.
4. Travel on an empty stomach.
Pets often get motion sickness. If you avoid feeding your cat before traveling, you’ll decrease the chance that your cat will get carsick. Plus, if your cat is a little bit hungry when it arrives at the veterinary clinic, it might be more willing to partake in the treats the veterinarian has to offer. This could make the visit more pleasant for your cat, for you, and for your veterinarian.
5. Talk to your veterinarian.
Ask your veterinarian how he or she handles fearful cats. Perhaps there’s someone at the practice who’s particularly tuned in to cats and can work patiently with yours. Keeping the cat in the exam room instead of taking it to the back might prevent further arousal, and many veterinarians and technicians can collect blood and urine samples right in the exam room.
Sometimes veterinarians will recommend giving your cat medications for motion sickness and anxiety before heading to the veterinary office. It’s usually best to avoid giving fearful cats sedatives, because they don’t calm fear but rather dull a cat’s ability to respond. What’s more, the sedative can make it difficult for your veterinarian to gain accurate information regarding your cat’s health. If your cat is extremely fearful, it may be safest and in your cat’s best interest for the veterinarian to administer an anti-anxiety or short-acting anesthetic so the doctor can perform a thorough examination and collect needed samples like urine and blood.
Communicate with your veterinarian to decide together the best way to ease your cat’s fears and provide the care it needs. After all, calming scaredy cats is the best way to keep them healthy, which keeps everyone happy.
10 Common Health Conditions in Senior Cats
As with people, certain diseases become more likely as cats age. Kidney and heart disease, cancer and diabetes are among the ones that are of greatest concern.
Cancer is a major killer of senior cats, with leukemia, sarcomas and mammary cancers being the major culprits. Warning signs depend on the cancer, but can include a new lump, sores (especially in exposed areas of white cats), weight loss, lethargy, and vomiting. Treatment also depends on the type of cancer, but may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
Kidney disease is very common in older cats. The condition may take months to years to develop, but usually doesn’t show any outward signs until the disease is fairly progressed. Signs include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, appetite loss, vomiting, and lack of self-grooming. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition with urine and blood tests, and can prescribe treatment that may include a special diet, medication, appetite stimulants, and subcutaneous fluids.
Heart disease is also seen more often in senior cats. Signs include difficulty breathing, coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy, and rear end weakness. A veterinarian can diagnose the condition by listening to the heart and with more extensive tests such as EKG, radiographs or ultrasound. Treatment may include a special diet and medications.
Diabetes mellitus is caused by the body’s inability to either produce sufficient level of insulin (Type 1) or use insulin efficiently (type 2). Type 2 diabetes is more common in obese cats, and seems to strike males more often. If your cat is losing weight or has lost appetite, is vomiting, becoming dehydrated or weak, having breathing abnormalities or declining skin and coat condition, he may have diabetes. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and place your cat on a special diet for weight reduction and control of blood sugar levels. Your cat may also be placed on injectable or oral medications. Although treatment will entail diligent monitoring of your cat’s condition, he can live a long and active life once the condition is brought under control.
Hepatic lipidosis, also called fatty liver disease, is more common in older cats, often when they lose weight rapidly. Warning signs include loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, and abdominal swelling. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and prescribe treatment.
Hyperthyroidism, defined as increased levels of thyroid hormones in the body, is fairly common in older cats. Signs include weight loss, increased thirst and urination, changes (usually increase) in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. Your veterinarian can diagnose it with blood tests, and can prescribe medicine, surgery to remove the thyroid gland, or radioactive iodine treatments.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often associated with other conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, or hyperthyroidism. It can also make certain conditions, such as kidney or heart disease, worse, and can contribute to blindness. Signs include rapid heartbeat or signs of vision loss such as pupils that don’t respond to light. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition with special equipment. Treatment may include a special diet or medication.
Skin infections may develop because older cats tend to groom less and because the skin is thinner, with reduced blood circulation. Older cats may have diminished immune function. Signs include skin pustules, redness and sores. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and treat it with medication.
Cognitive dysfunction, somewhat similar to human Alzheimer’s disease, is seen in some older cats. Signs include aimless wandering, excessive meowing, confusion and disorientation. Your veterinarian may be able to treat the condition with drugs.
Dental problems are extremely common in older cats. Bad breath, bleeding gums, loose teeth, recessed gums, and reluctance to chew are all signs. Your veterinarian can examine your cat’s mouth and extract any infected or painful teeth, and may also prescribe medication.
Arthritis is sometimes seen in older cats. Signs are limping, difficulty getting up, and reluctance to run or jump. It can be especially evident after a day of unusual exercise. Your veterinarian can prescribe drugs that can help ease the pain.
Dehydration, while not a disease, occurs more often in older cats and can damage their health.Feed wet food and place additional water bowls around the house.
Your senior cat should see his veterinarian every six months for a check-up, or more frequently if there are noticeable changes. Many diseases, if caught in their early stages, can be stopped before they do extensive damage.