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Help Your Cat Keep All 9 Lives

Friday, August 22, 2014
Prep for your next veterinary visit with our timely tips

veterinary tech with catNo matter what your cat tells you, she really does need to see her doctor at least once a year —  no excuses. Of course, your cat might have other ideas, even getting creative to avoid her annual trip to the veterinarian.

If she talked the dog into hiding her cat carrier, find it. If she throws a tantrum or gives you the cold shoulder, just wait it out. If she claims that she’s perfectly fit, help her stay that way. You’re the pet parent, your cat is your furry kid, and you want her to be healthy and happy for a long, long time. Right?

Far too many cats never see a veterinarian until something’s wrong. For some people, the challenge of catching, containing and transporting their stressed-out cat “just for a checkup” doesn’t seem worth it.

However, that vet visit is a vital investment. Cats tend to hide little physical problems until they blossom into big ones. Regular checkups help keep potential issues, well, in check. That saves pain — and money — down the road.

Checkups are easier when you know what to expect

Annual veterinary visits are straightforward once you get into a routine. Get on a regular schedule and stick to it. You’ll also develop a stronger relationship with your cat’s doctor and their staff, so when you have questions or need expert help, you’ll have a trusted resource to call.

My 2 big boy cats had their annual checkups last month. Our favorite tech and veterinarian performed their usual smooth teamwork:

  • weight (large, but not obese) and temperature (an undignified experience, but normal)
  • teeth, ears and eyes (excellent)
  • heart rate (a bit fast — typical for my cowardly lions)
  • skin and coat (glowing and clean)
  • all organs in the right place and healthy
  • brief Q&A about eating habits and some age-related changes
  • vaccinations, nail trims and treats

The team was quick, patient, gentle and respectful to each cat’s needs. We were in and out in under 30 minutes.

Preparation is the key to success

The preparation, however, was more involved. I do my best to plan ahead for the visit, which minimizes stress (on all of us) as much as possible.

Most cats dislike the carrier, the car and strange environments/smells/sounds. Add being chased, grabbed and sworn at, and it’s no wonder that they resist what’s supposed to be good for them.

To make the event less of a stressful one for everybody, try these tips in advance.

Before the appointment:

  • Help your cat grow accustomed to the carrier. Make it part of the furniture in your home. Leave it out and open, and it will become a bed rather than an unusual instrument of torture.
  • Timing is crucial. Schedule the appointment for when you have time to catch, contain and transport her without rushing. Also, your cat will do much better with an empty stomach.

On the day of the appointment:

  • Prep the carrier with a small soft towel or shirt from your laundry basket. Your own smell is very comforting. Later, you can move that item to the exam table to add warmth, traction and familiarity.
  • Gradually corral your cat with little or no chasing. Calmly close every inside door in your home until you and your cat are in one room (ideally without a bed or sofa) and you can easily pick her up.
  • Quickly place her in the carrier; close it immediately. Top-loading carriers are easier on people and cats. If yours only opens from an end, brace it end-upward between your feet and slide in the cat, tail first.
  • Cover the carrier with a light towel to help calm your cat. In the car, secure the carrier safely and with as little tilt as possible in a passenger area.
  • At the clinic, find a quiet corner in the waiting room. Turn the carrier to a wall to avoid eye contact between your cat and other pets.

Clinic staff will do their best to get you into the privacy and relative calm of an exam room as soon as possible. Ask if you can open the carrier right away to allow your cat to explore.

Get your cat on the road to good health

The CATalyst Council’s website has a great video with more information about getting your cat safely to the clinic.

So talk to your veterinarian about include regular healthy-cat visits. I won’t say that your cat will thank you, since there might be some brief sulking in the immediate future. But you’ll both appreciate the end result: a longer, happier, healthier life together.

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