How to Survive Taking Your Cat to the Vet

I have had 6 cats in my adult life and have taken many trips to the vet over the past 20 years. I want to share a few ideas that have worked for me to offer you hope, inspiration, and encouragement when taking your cat to the vet.

Follow the Tips That Work for You

Most tip sheets start with a “practice makes perfect” sentiment. Logically this makes sense. Work little by little and try practice trips in the car to get them adjusted. My reality? I don’t have the time. I don’t have the patience either. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to traumatize my cats. I know I should be better at working with them, but my point? When you read anyone’s tips, including these, pick what works for you and don’t feel guilty if you aren’t doing every last one. The important part is your cat needs to see the vet at least once a year, so find what works best for all parties involved. And if you laughed at “once a year,” I’m not joking.

Low Effort Tip: Leave the Carrier Out

No wonder cats run and hide when they see this crazy box only once per year (or less). Obvious remedy: leave it out for the cats to see, smell, and touch. Is it odd having a cat carrier out in your house? Perhaps. Does it get in the way? You don’t have to put it in the middle of the kitchen. Keep it out in a bedroom or living area where your cat frequents. Leave the carrier door open. Put a towel in there, store cat toys inside (what–your cat doesn’t have toys?!?). You could even start to feed them by it. Food solves most of life’s problems. Not freaking when they see the carrier is 90{cc651acb8fd21d18461bab90e3951e117ad976e0f5f2bec6fa2ec763fee94208} of the battle.

Get a Better Carrier

cat carrier with easily removed topGo buy one where you can easily take the top off. They make them now where the top unlatches and easily comes on and off. Then you gently place kitty in the bottom portion on a towel and put the top back on. No hassle, no fight and he can curse your opposable thumbs all the way to the vet’s office.

I know, I know, you already have a carrier that uses 10 screws to make it come apart. I have two of those. It takes me longer to undo the top than to wrestle the unwilling cat inside. After some battles, the $19.95 seems insignificant for increased harmony and lack of bloodshed.

Loading Techniques

  1. The “Burrito”: Lay out a bath towel and place kitty on top. Wrap the cat up like a burrito. Think of it like lovingly swaddling your newborn. Be snug, quick, and shove the hissing bundle in the carrier.
  2. The “Loaded Cannon”: Place the carrier so the open door is facing the ceiling. Gently scruff the cat’s neck and put your other hand on the back legs. Lower kitty into the carrier tail first. Quickly shut the door. I use the cannon analogy because for one of my cats when the carrier door opens he explodes out like a big furry cannonball. This can also be combined with the “Burrito.”
  3. The “Hide and Seek”: Before you make any move to get started, put your unsuspecting cat in a small room where they can’t hide. How about the half bath in the hall? You don’t want to scare them, but put them in a place where there is no place for them to hide. Just be prepared when you open the door!

Still No Love for the Carrier?

Try a little pheromone spray called Feliway. This spray doesn’t have much a smell to humans, but it does to cats and can calm them. Spray some in and around the carrier and your car just before you start. Don’t spray directly on your cat. Now, if they only made Xanax in a room fragrance!

Last resort? Try a pill. If it is overly stressful for you, then it certainly is for your cat. Ask your veterinarian for a pill to lightly sedate your cat. Give the pill 1-2 hours before loading your cat and that can help take the edge off.

Pill a cat? I’m joking, right? (But now stuffing them in a carrier doesn’t seem so bad, does it?) Never fear you can learn to pill your cat!

Great Resources

Getting Your Cat to the Vet Brochure

Two Important Things

1. Find what works for you and for your cat.

2. Take your cat to the vet for a checkup at least once per year.

This post was written by Kirsten Linney of Den Herder Veterinary Hospital.  She is a proud wife, mother, and cat owner. She may not be a cat whisperer, but knows how to work a can of tuna to her advantage when working with her felines.