Cats have a reputation for being self-sufficient creatures. They typically require less maintenance than dogs and enjoy cleaning themselves; however, visiting the vet is still a necessary part of responsible cat care. Your cat may need immunizations, spay/neuter procedures, dental care, dietary or grooming recommendations, and let’s not forget regularly scheduled checkups.
For many pet parents, taking their cat to the vet for the first time can seem daunting. But, we’re here to help! We collected tips from Dr. Ena Valikov, owner of Beach Vet Hospital in Long Beach, CA, about how to calm your kitty on the big day and avoid stressful scenarios.
Dr. Ena graduated from The University of California, Davis— the No 1 Veterinary School in the U.S— and practices clinical veterinary medicine and surgery in her Southern California vet office.
3 Helpful Tips to Avoid Stressful Vet Visits
1. Put Yourself in Their Paws
“For too many kitties, a visit to the vet can feel just like an alien abduction,” Dr. Ena explains. “Cats are creatures of habit– thriving in a predictable, stable routine. But even for cats, vet visits can become an extraordinary adventure.”
Think about it, going to the vet as a new kitten probably feels something like going to the dentist when you were a child. For most of us, the first time is a scary and unpleasant experience. It’s all too common to see children crying their eyes out in the waiting room, begging to go back home.
2. Recognizing Fear and Stress
Your cat may experience anxiety when anticipating a trip to the vet. To help them feel at ease in the veterinarian’s office, you first need to know the general signs of an anxiety-ridden feline.
According to Dr. Ena and PetMD, when a cat’s head is turned sideways or backward, they are most likely feeling nervous or anxious about something. You may also notice increased isolation or have a hard time coaxing them out of their corner. Recognizing when your feline becomes stressed and what particular acts are causing such a reaction will help you adjust your regular routine accordingly.
3. Make the Carrier Safe
We know there are many cat carriers out there to choose from. That’s why we recommend asking your vet, just like we asked our local vet, Dr. Ena, for their input on the safest ones.
“Get the kind whose top is easy to unlatch. Leave it out with the door open or take it off altogether, and leave it where she likes to hang out,” she said. “Put in stuff with smells of you–If your kitten loves your socks, put them in the carrier. If she likes to sleep on top of your head, put that pillow or the pillowcase in her carrier instead of the laundry.”
Dr. Ena also recommends tossing in some of your cat’s favorite treats to assist them in getting comfortable in their carrier. Redbarn Protein Puffs for cats work great for on-the-go travel because of their resealable pouch and fun, tiny size.
Vet Visit Checklist for Cats
1. Do Your Research
Spend some time researching cat nutrition from trustworthy, authoritative sources. Don’t get sucked into a black hole though,
2. Come Prepared with Questions About Their Diet
It’s also a good idea to cut out ingredient labels or take a picture from every container of food and treats to discuss with your veterinarian. This way you’ll get clear, direct feedback on the items you already have stocked in your pantry.
3. Know What to Bring
Be sure to bring in your cat’s complete medical records—this includes your cat’s vaccines, deworming records, medications, past surgeries, and medical invoices.
4. Take Notes and Video
Record your detailed observations and bring them to your vet, especially if your pet is sick. It’s important to take advantage of your vet’s professional training and years of clinical experience while you are at the office.
Dr. Ena has a tip for this, too. “Is your cat doing something weird but you can’t tell what it is…. hiccups, a cough, a sneeze or puking? Whip out your smartphone. Film it and bring it to the vet.”
Unless your cat is sick and needing to be seen right way, pick a day you aren’t overwhelmed with a mile-long to-do list. Give yourself and your kitty plenty of time to prepare and discuss.
What to Ask Your Vet During Your Cat’s Checkup
Convincing your cat to head to the vet’s office is often a job within itself. But, to make the trouble worth it, you need to know what questions you should be asking your vet in their first place. Take this list below with you and bring up anything that was skipped in the natural flow of conversation.
- Ask About Parasite Control: Your veterinarian will know which parasites and which medications are appropriate in your area.
- Identification Tags and Microchips: Microchips make reunions with lost pets much more likely and provide an extra layer of security for you and your cat.
- Training: Kittens are easiest to socialize and train in the first six months of life. Cats are known to respond best to patient, consistent, and positive reward-based training. Your vet may have some unique tips for you to try at home.
- Nail Trimming: It’s easier than you think, but your vet will walk you through the process so you feel comfortable doing it on your own. Bonus tip—ask your veterinarian or their veterinary nurse to show you where “the quick” spot is.
- Spaying and Neutering: Ask your veterinarian about ideal timing for necessary elective procedures, anesthetic choices, anesthetic monitoring, pain relievers, pre-operative preparations, and costs.
Know When to Get Vaccinated
When it comes to caring for a new kitten, guidelines from The American Veterinary Medical Association suggest kittens start their core vaccine, called FVRCPC (feline virus rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (distemper more like puppy parvovirus of cats) at six weeks old. Boosters are needed every month until 12-16 weeks of age. Some vaccines are boosted annually and others every three years.
Schedule your future appointments while you’re in the office so you don’t miss these important dates.
Preparing for Costs
Research financing options like Care Credit, veterinary insurance companies like Healthy Paws, and other helpful insurance options before you need them. Veterinary teams will gladly provide estimates.
Do you have any tips on how to have a smooth vet visit with your cats? Let us know in the comments below.
I appreciate that you mentioned the importance of scheduling your future vaccinations for your cat, so you don’t miss them. I hadn’t thought of that before, so it is good you mentioned it. In the past, I have tended to miss appointments if I don’t set them. When I find a vet for her vaccinations, I will be sure to set appointments in advance, so I don’t miss them.