How to Get Your Cat to Friendship Hospital for Animals
An annual examination is key to your pet’s health; we do understand, however, that not all cats enjoy the journey to the vet’s office. Bringing your cat to the vet for yearly preventative health care allows cats to live longer and happier lives. Going to a veterinary hospital can be a stressful experience for cats due to the unfamiliar and, at times, frightening environment (carrier, car ride, and hospital). Here are some important things to consider in making their journey to the veterinary hospital as stress free as possible:
1. Choosing the right carrier: Not all carriers are made equal.
Choose a hard-sided carrier that has both top and front doors. You’ll have a better chance of getting Garfield in and out through the top door—this door is crucial for getting a fearful cat inside a carrier without excessive handling and stress. If you are unable to get a carrier with a top door, be sure to purchase a carrier that has an easily removable top, comes apart readily, and has large latches that fasten securely without making too much noise. This makes all the difference when attempting to get an anxious cat into or out of the carrier.
The carrier also needs to be sturdy in order to give your cat more confidence while being transported. The fabric carriers—though easier to transport—tend to collapse, fold, and be unstable, making your cat feel scared and stressed. A carrier is not a fashion statement. Choose a carrier that works for your cat and is not simply this season’s latest trend.
2. Familiarizing your cat with this foreign land: The carrier.
This is probably the easiest thing to do. Getting your cat accustomed to being inside the carrier will dramatically reduce his or her stress when it’s time for a trip to the vet’s office. The carrier should be left out so your cat can explore it without associating it with a visit to the hospital. Leave the carrier open in a well-frequented location so your cat can use it to relax, enjoy an afternoon catnap, have a bite to eat, or discover a new toy. The carrier should not become an automatic red flag to your cat that a veterinary visit is on the horizon. Garfield should learn to love being in his carrier as much as he loves eating lasagna. If the carrier with the top on is too much for your scaredy cat, leave the bottom part of the carrier out, so that the cat can become familiar with it. When your cat sits in or by the carrier without showing signs of distress, reinforce this positive experience by rewarding him or her with treats. If your cat is not motivated by food like our friend Garfield, treat him or her to a toy, playtime, or affection.
3. Getting from point A to point F…Friendship Hospital for Animals.
Transportation is generally one of the most stressful parts of this seemingly endless journey. The right carrier can really help to make your cat feel more secure and stable. An excellent tool for making the journey easier is Feliway, a feline pheromone that provides your cat a sense of familiarity. It comes as a spray that you can apply to the towel inside the carrier. You can also use familiar bedding or clothing with your scent to help Garfield feel at ease.
In the car, the carrier can be seat-belted in to reduce bumpiness and unwanted movement. Some cats feel less anxious with a towel over the carrier since it prevents them from seeing the unfamiliar surroundings. Other cats would rather see you throughout the journey and may become more distressed if the carrier were covered with a towel.
Other options are to book an early morning or late night appointment at our hospital, when you know D.C. traffic is not at its peak and your typical 3-mile car ride will not turn into a 45-minute traffic jam. Another benefit of early or late appointments is that the hospital tends to be quieter, thus minimizing your animal’s exposure to new scents and noise.
A stress-free, well-planned journey will ensure your cat is best prepared for a visit to Friendship Hospital for Animals. Good luck bringing your cat to the vet!
Dr. Mariana Fonseca attended the University of Florida for her undergraduate and graduate studies, receiving her B.S. in Animal Biology and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She completed a small animal medicine and surgical internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey before joining the Friendship team. Dr. Fonseca’s special interests include preventive health, oncology, internal medicine and soft tissue surgery.
*Featured image courtesy of Women’s Day.