Have you ever put off coming for an appointment for your cat because it’s too stressful? If you answered “yes” – you are not alone! cat vet visits can be a stressful business, both for you and them. In this months blog post i’m going to be discussing the effects of stress on cats and also how best to minimise stress during vet clinics.
Stress has a very real effect on our feline patients. Not only is it emotionally unsettling for them but it also carries certain physiological markers as well. Stressed cats can: vocalise loudly, urinate/defecate, have increased respiration rates, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and even increased blood glucose levels. You can imagine that this makes a full clinical exam very difficult; is this cats glucose elevated from stress or diabetes? is his heart always this fast or is it just fast now because he’s so worried?? It makes an accurate diagnosis that much more difficult.
One huge issue that cats can get from stress is a disease called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). It often presents much like a urinary tract infection (painful urination, frequent urination, inappropriate urination, bloody urine etc) and in fact could easily be mistaken as such, but bacteria does not play a role in FLUTD. Stress triggers a muscle spasm reaction in the bladder and urethra and also encourages the growth of urinary crystals – both these problems combined lead to difficulty urinating and even being unable to ass urine at all. This is an extremely complicated, frustrating condition that we see very often. One thing all these poor cats have in common is STRESS and prevention is definitely better than cure!
So now we know that having a very stressed out cat is not good for them, how do we prevent it when trying to bring them in for a vet visit? Here are a few tips about how to make a vet visit much less stressful (for you and them!):
Transporting your cat to the clinic
– Never travel with the cat loose in the car – always use a robust carrier.
– Choose carefully – cardboard, for example, is no match for a determined cat!
– The carrier should be easy to clean (preferably plastic or plastic-coated).
– A carrier that opens at the top is much easier to use as the cat can be gently lifted in or out.
– Cover the carrier with a cloth or towel during the journey to keep the cat calm.
– Secure the carrier in the car in a footwell or on a seat (with a seatbelt) so it cannot move.
– Stay calm so the cat doesn’t pick up stress from you. Be reassuring and avoid loud noises.
– On arrival at the clinic, avoid rushing. Keep your cat in the carrier and hold it carefully – avoid swinging the carrier or banging it against objects or your legs.
The cat will be less alarmed if the carrier smells familiar and reassuring.
– Put bedding in the carrier that the cat normally sleeps on or curls up on at home.
– Also place an article of clothing belonging to the cat’s favourite person in the carrier.
– Spray the carrier with Feliway® (a calming synthetic cat scent or pheromone, which is available to purchase here with us), at least 15 minutes before putting your cat in it.
– If your cat panics at the sight of the carrier, keep calm. Keep the basket close, but out of sight. Wrap the cat in a thick towel/blanket that smells familiar. Put the cat and the towel into the carrier quickly but gently. A top-opening carrier makes this much easier.
– Take some spare bedding (smelling of home) in case the cat is sick or soils the carrier.
Once you’ve arrived at the clinic, please use our special shelving dedicated for cats! It means your cat can only see you sitting opposite them and avoids them coming into contact with scary dogs.
Ideally the carrier should be ‘part of the furniture’ and somewhere the cat chooses to sleep or is fed, so it does not only appear when a visit to the vet is imminent! Keep your cat carrier out all the time, feed your cat there, play with your cat there. Make it a very normal, pleasant thing instead of an instrument of torture that only comes out once a year for the booster vaccination.
I hope these this will help make your next visit into see us much less stressful!
for more information on stress in cats and FLUTD please visit: