National Drag Your Cat to the Vet Week

We now interrupt my special vacation guest postings for a regularly scheduled posting- but it’s for a good reason.

National Take Your Cat to the Vet WeekAugust 16th-22nd marksNational Take your Cat to the Vet Week, a reminder to all us cat owners that despite what your cat may tell you, they really should get a vet checkup at least once a year.

Cats are masters of disguise, which is something I repeat regularly to owners who just can’t figure out how the cat who was acting normal last month now has raging diabetes or a thyroid level off the charts. They mask their signs of disease until it’s just impossible to ignore, oftentimes to their detriment. Regular checkups maximize your chances of catching manageable disease processes early.

Cats don’t like the vet. Trust me, I know this. Owners don’t like taking them, either, especially when it involves chasing the cat madly around the house for 20 minutes, stuffing them into the carrier, listening to the yowling for 20 minutes in the car, wrestling them out of the carrier at the vet, then dealing with the affronted feline back at home. It is very easy to just say, ‘forget it.’

It is even easier to just say forget it if you have one of those cats we delicately refer to as “fractious felines.” These are the cats that even the most seasoned staff hesitates to handle, the ones who growl when the slightest shadow crosses the front of the carrier, the ones you can’t even touch to remove from the carrier without risking life and limb. Some cats are so grumpy, or more likely just so terrified that getting a valid picture of their health is a challenge to do with the limited exam we can complete.

It is for these owners that I’d like to make a couple of suggestions:

1. When you schedule your appointment, ask the vet what their least busy time is, and go then. The less time you have to wait in the lobby, the less stressed you both will be.

2. Let your vet know your cat is grumpy. The staff appreciates the warning to use extra caution, and oftentimes if we know we have a limited opportunity to get things done we may plan our exam and diagnostics accordingly. For example, if an otherwise healthy pet presents for a vaccine, it may not be worth checking her ears if that is what sends her through the roof.

3. Don’t be afraid of sedatives. If your vet recommends it for your cat, there is probably a good reason. Sometimes it is the only way to obtain something we really need- like bloodwork for an ill pet. It’s not optimal, but it’s better than having a pet so stressed even the owner can’t handle the pet to get them in the carrier to go back home.

4. Look into cat-friendly vet options. Feline-only practices are popping up all over the place, with the advantage of no dogs in the lobby, a staff specifically trained to the idiosyncrasies of cats, and a vet who deals with all cats, all the time. Another option is a home visit veterinarian. For many owners, housecall practices are a lifesaver, giving the cat the care he or she needs without the drama of having to get in the car and go somewhere.

Feline Pine is having a “Tell Us Your Funniest Vet Stories” contest with a daily prize of a 6 month supply of Feline Pine and a $75 gift card to use at the vet, which you will have to keep your cat from hiding should you win. I actually have a doozy of a story from vet school but it involves someone else’s cat, and for reasons which would be clear if you heard it I’m actually too nervous to share it on the blog. But if you find me at BlogPaws I’ll be happy to tell it to you. 🙂

If you enter the contest, let me know your story here too so we can all share in the entertainment. And if you have any additional tips for minimizing the Horrors of the Vet Visits, please post them- I always love new ideas to make the visits better!

Filed: Cats, Health Tagged: ,
  • wikith

    My six-year-old devil cat is actually an angel (though sheer terror, mind) at the vet. She just hunkers down and freezes. Two exceptions come to mind: clippers and waking up from anesthesia. During my fourth year, I found her one day yowling in pain with a string hanging from her rear. The emergency tech pulled out clippers, and when they came on she was across the room and three people were bleeding in a split second. So much for the Iv cath prior to sedating for rads, she got pinned down for IM sedation and it took five people and a whopping dose to bring her down.
    Last year, I shaved her leg at home with my fiancee’s non-electric razor (love you, snookums) and used our normal anesthesia protocol on her for a dental cleaning. She came up fighting, thrashing and slamming her head into every surface of the cage. I have several scars from going in to wrap her in a little straight jacket of towels until she finished waking up. This year, I used different agents and sedated her prior to catheter placement. She woke up freaked out, but not as self-destructive. By closing, I was going to put her in her carrier but she still was not all there. I got a phone call from a client about a biopsy result and got called into the office while still holding the cat. She went berserk halfway through. flipped onto the desk, and nearly set herself on fire with the scented candle that was burning in the office. I swore and then quickly apologized to the owner and explained what was going on… she said “okay” and continued cataloging every lump and bump on the dog’s body! I eventually managed to motion a tech into bringing me the carrier so I could stuff the spitting ball of rage into it. She remained off-balance and freaked out until well into the following day. Back to the drawing board for next year, I guess.
    Any suggestions? Our hospital has ace, torb, propofol, telazol, diazepam, not all my favorites from vet school. Maintain on sevo. Last year was with ace/torb premed, propofol induction. This year, sedated with telazol. I am considering that diazepam for next time, but I’m not used to using it without ketamine. I’d kill for hydromorphone, as that worked a dream on her in vet school. No, obtaining it in my current practice is not an option. 🙁

    • macula_densa

      I will say that diazepam by itself made my cat absolutely crazy, and apparently it’s not terribly uncommon for that to happen in cats. Have you tried “kitty magic?” You didn’t mention dexdomitor, so I’m thinking perhaps not… I’ve read that ace in combination with torb and telazol works rather well, but haven’t personally tried it.

    • We have similar choices. I am stuck with telazol usually, hoping for the best. I would KILL for domitor. I love the stuff.

  • I’ve found a local vet whose entire practice is housecalls. She is more expensive than going to a vet office, but with 3 cats, it’s well worth it. (and if it is just a regular checkup, I get a discount if all 3 cats are checked.) All the cats were happy and friendly, even when getting handled, because they were in their home. The vet was just another visitor. My littlest, Pandora, even climbed onto the vet’s shoulders for a purr and a cuddle (to her surprise!)

  • Our Penny can sometimes be a challenge at home (we call her the Queen of Mixed Messages: purring and enjoying some snuggles while the tail is swishing and telling you to go away- you never are quite sure which one she means!) But she LOVES her carrier and to ride in the car….that is until we are pulling into the vet’s parking lot and then she violently vomits. From there it’s all downhill. I bring with me a “vomit kit” which consists of a multitude of clean-up needs.
    Her notes at the vet began with “spunky” written on one of her kitten wellness visits. When she went to be spayed, “classic calico” was added to her notes. That same day they called us to take her home early and let us observe her at home because they thought she’d do better recovering in her own home…. at least they were honest when i asked if she had bitten anyone. She did… we knew then we have the “bad” kid.
    When I took her in for an illness I thought maybe she wouldn’t have as much fight in her, but I was wrong… she had super-feline strength: refusing to emerge from the carrier even when it had been tipped upside down and shaken. So they unscrewed the thing and took the top off. Even then she needed a tech to come wrap her in towels and hold her against the side of the carrier while wearing rabies gloves; just so the vet could give her 1 shot. He declined the second shot because he was afraid she’d break the sharp and then there’d really be trouble.
    This last time we brought her for her annual physical and the vet, bless his heart, declined. He said he’d be happy to treat her any time we even suspect she is ill, and he’d always address any of our concerns, but he just didn’t feel the stress for her and the likelihood of all of us being injured was quite worth it if we felt quite sure she is healthy and thriving. We thanked him for his honesty and are fine with that – we know he’d roll up his sleeves and put on the gloves if we had any concerns, so we chose instead to laugh about how rotten our little angel can be and tried to convince him that if only he’d come to our house she’s a whole different animal there!
    So we put her back in the carrier and went home. Which is the most frustrating part. The moment the door shuts for her, she curls up in a ball, purrs and sleeps the whole way home cause she knows it’s over!

    • Ah, you have one of those. LOL. I’ve been known to send home sedatives for owners to give to their kitties before getting in the car- but yours sounds like she might be a great candidate for a home call vet!

  • Kristie

    Thank you for the reminder–both kitties are due for their annuals (well, they were at the beginning of the month) and I really need to stop making excuses and just get them in. (Well, except for the logistics of hauling two kitties and one toddler down the stairs, into the car, and to the vet. Ah well.)

  • Leigh

    If the only time you break out the cat carrier is to take your cat to the vet, your cat will HATE it, and begin to get scared from the moment you put him in… then by the time you get to the vet, that terror has reached a level that only means bad news for ALL involved. There are easy ways to combat the violent fear of the vet…

    1) Leave the cat carrier out at all times. Have comfy bed in it. Throw treats or catnip in it. Make it a normal part of the furniture where occasionally fun things can be found.

    2) Most cats also hate the car ride because the only place it ever leads to is the vet. Again, they start to get aroused and fearful from the moment the ride starts. So once in awhile (every couple weeks?) put your cat in the carrier and drive for a bit. Sometimes just go around the block, then go home and let your cat out and give it a treat. Other times go for a few miles. Then once your cat is somewhat relaxed with that… go all the way to the vet. Go in the door, sit in the lobby for a minute… then leave! That leads me to #3…

    3) A couple times a year take your cat to the vet for non-exam or vaccine reasons. Sit in the lobby with all the chaos, then leave. Or ask the vet tech to take your cat out and weight it, then pack the cat up and leave.

    You have to think of it from your cat’s point of view. If sometimes a car ride is just a ride (no vet) then EVERY time it goes in the car, it won’t start to get terrified. If sometimes it goes to the vet and almost NOTHING happens (no poking, prodding, sticking with a needle…) then that fear will go down. It will become more of, “Hmmm, what’s going to happen this time?” vs. “Oh my God first they put me in the carrier, then we went in that scary machine to get here, then that stranger lady stuck a stick up my tush and now they are grabbing me and oh no, next comes the needles!”

    Not all cats need this. Some are love bugs even when we are taking blood from their jugular vein! But behavioral modification techniques can reduce your cats terror at the vet.

  • Liz

    I always put a blanket over Squeaky’s carrier when we go to the vet. He is generally pretty well behaved and despite his massive size is a bit of a sooky mummy’s boy. But if he sees a dog in the waiting room he’ll freak out, so I always cover his carrier with a blanket or jacket, and talk to him while we’re in the waiting room so he know’s I’m still there.

  • We took my spouse’s mom’s cat, a dreadfully ornery and very sick maine coon, to the vet. It was an ordeal, to be sure. Somehow we managed to get the Cat Whisperer as a vet, this guy was amazing. I don’t know what he did or how he did it, but as soon as he placed his hands on Martin, Martin just shut up and let him do whatever he wanted, even the thermometer didn’t do anything to the calm. It was the craziest thing.

  • We use Furarri carriers with snap buckles, which allows the vet to do a lot of common procedures like vaccinations or checking an ear without our cats having to leave the carrier base. We can pop off the top half and they get to stay curled up in their beds as much of the visit as possible and that really helps.

    Unfortunately, one of our cats is no more comfortable with strangers or strange experiences at home than she is anywhere else. Her rule is everything is a mortal threat until proven otherwise. And as a result, she empties every orifice in her carrier, sometimes on the way down, sometimes on the way back. Not fun. But we still have managed a half a dozen vet visits – she was recently diagnosed hyperthyroid. And she’l tolerating them slightly better. The first time she went to the vet, they tried to put a towel around her and she levitated about four feet off the exam table and then went backward toward the vet’s head! So no more towels!

    These cats were rescued a little older. Most likely lost their mother and had no socialization as kittens so there’s a lot of stuff that they don’t handle well.