What can you do to help your cat have a fear free veterinary experience?
Actually, a lot because the fear free visit starts at home.
Fear free visits are definitely more work for you, the owner, and for us at the clinic, but the dividends that they pay in mental health benefits for your cat are priceless. So, we begin by getting ready to visit the clinic. Remember that if you are stressed, your cat will feel that stress and become anxious themselves. Make sure that you are prepared for the visit mentally yourself so we can make it a positive experience for your cat.
Begin by teaching your cat to be comfortable in the carrier. More information about this can be found on our website in the fear free section. About 15 minutes prior to putting your cat in the carrier spray the bedding that you will be using with Feliway. If your cat is nervous spray a towel with feliway and cover the carrier as well as spraying the inside of the car. Also make sure that the temperature of the car is good (i.e. heat or AC on as needed). Place some treats in the carrier (unless you cat gets car sick) and bring some with you. Avoid chasing your cat around the house or using an angry voice, rather use food or treats to lure them in. Often top loading carriers are easier to use especially for frightened cats. Mare sure that your carrier comes apart easily to facilitate removal of your cat at the clinic. Calming music in the car is often helpful. The safest place in your car for your cat is in a carrier which is place behind the passenger seat on the floor.
When arriving at the Animal Health Clinic, call the reception desk if you need help getting your cat safely into the office. If possible, carry the carrier in your arms rather than by the handle to prevent swinging or banging it which will frighten your cat. When you arrive a client services representative will check you in, if we are not immediately ready for you have a seat in the cat area and put your carrier on the bench next to you or on one of the low tables. Feliway sprayed towels are available if your cat and carrier are not already covered. Pet your cat through the carrier however, we don’t recommend allowing others to do so or allowing your cat out of the carrier at this point.
Upon arriving in the exam room put the carrier on the floor and open the carrier door and allow your cat to exit if he wants to. If your cat prefers to stay in the carrier, we may be able to do the exam in the bottom half of the carrier or in your arms wherever he is most comfortable. Cats do not like to be pulled from or dumped out of carriers. Calmly stroking your cat’s head and talking in a low soft voice helps to reduce stress but avoid over stimulating them. Be aware that initially we may ignore your cat to allow her to adjust to us walking into the room. If your cat is not cooperating with the technician or doctor, stay calm, we have many ways to help decrease your cat’s fear. We may even recommend rescheduling your appointment or using medications for this visit or the next to decrease their anxiety. Most cats that misbehave are just afraid, not bad, and we understand this and want to make the visit as positive as possible.
For information on returning home with your cat and reintroducing them to the rest of the pets can be found at https://funkstownvet.com/fear-free/pet-reintroduction/Click here to download the flyer!