How to take your cat to the vet

Taking your cat to the vet can be a scary experience for you and your cat! Here are some tips on how to take your cat to the vet and take the stress out of the trip for both of you.

Understanding your cat’s behavior

Cat’s are most comfortable with the familiar and need time to adjust to the unfamiliar. A visit to the vet can be stressful because the carrier, the car ride, and the vet’s office are all unfamiliar. They are also very attuned to their human’s frustration and anxiety, so the more you can remain calm the more you will be helping your cat.

It begins with training. Cats do not learn from punishment or force, they learn from rewards to encourage positive behavior. They want to please you, therefore, you must let them know when they’ve done so.

Begin with handling

You should begin (and begin early) by handling your cat in all the ways she may be handled at the veterinarian’s office. This should continue as often as possible, and in the beginning may only last a minute or two. When your cat is calmly in your lap, touch her paws, her ears and open her mouth to have a look at her teeth.

Each time she allows you to touch one of these sensitive areas reward her with food, play or affection. Only you know what best motivates your cat.  Be persistent and reward every time she complies.

Cat, meet carrier!

The goal here is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with a positive experience and eventually enter voluntarily on a routine basis.

Once again this training should start early on by leaving the carrier out in a place where your cat spends a lot of time. Initially, you can place an item of your own bedding or clothing with your scent inside the carrier to make kitty feel more secure. You can also place a few treats, catnip, or toys inside the encourage your cat to enter the carrier at home. You may notice the treats go missing during the night. Continue to replace them and eventually you will catch her inspecting the carrier in your presence. Reward immediately!

This process could take days, weeks or even months. Be patient and calm with your cat and always reward desired behavior. If you still have trouble getting her used to the carrier you may need to re-evaluate the carrier itself.

What type carriers are best?

Choose a carrier that is sturdy and secure for the cat, as well as easy to carry for yourself.

Carriers should be seat-belted in the car to keep kitty safe and reduce as much of the bumpiness of the ride as possible.

Some cats like to see out when traveling, while others may be less anxious when the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel to prevent them from being exposed to unfamiliar sights.

The best carriers are hard-sided carriers that can open from both the front and the top. It is especially helpful if it can also be taken apart in the middle, leaving the bottom half open. This way a cat who is anxious or fearful can remain in the bottom half of the carrier. The vet can often perform the exam without removing the cat at all, which helps reduce stress.

What if my cat is unwilling?

Getting an unwilling cat into the carrier can be a challenge, but the following may help:

  • Put the carrier in a small room with few places for kitty to hide
  • Move slowly and calmly, do not attempt to chase the cat into the carrier
  • If kitty just will NOT walk into the carrier and the carrier has an opening in the top, gently cradle the cat and lower her into the carrier.
  • Use familiar bedding in the carrier, such as a piece of your own clothing
  • Consider the use of calming feline pheromone spray in the carrier about 30 minutes prior to transport

Coming home-keeping the peace

Cats are VERY sensitive to smells, and unfamiliar scents can result in one cat no longer recognizing another if it smells like a stranger. If you’re bringing a cat home from the vet into a multi-cat household these suggestions can help avoid problems between cats following a veterinary visit:

  • Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how all the other cats react
  • When everyone appears calm and peaceful let the returning cat out of the carrier
  • If you sense any tension take the carrier into a separate room to let the returning cat out. Provide a treat and spend some time petting her and letting her roam to regain the more familiar smell of home
  • The use of a synthetic feline pheromone spray can help provide a sense of familiarity

Final thoughts

I hope you find these suggestions on how to ease stress for you and your cat during a visit to the veterinarian helpful. If you have other suggestions of your own I would love to hear about them. Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Thanks! Have a paws-atively wonderful day!

Kyle Ann

12 thoughts on “How to take your cat to the vet”

  1. This is some nice advice!

    I have 2 cats and, thankfully, they are very calm and easy going when it comes to getting in their carrier and behaving at the vets. It’s having them remain calm after getting back because they go bonkers as if they have a hair stuck in their butt.

    1. Hi Brandon,
      Too funny that your cats behave at the vet’s and go crazy back at home. I guess they are super happy to be there!
      Thanks for taking time to stop by and read my article.
      All the best to you and your furry companions.
      Come back soon to see what’s new.
      Kyle Ann

  2. Kyle Ann,
    What a wonderful, helpful article on how to get my kitty to the vet! I found my cat in my parent’s flower bed. I wanted to name her “Flower”, but she also had little white “mittens” on each paw so my granddaughter wanted to call her “Mittens.” So Mittens it is! She absolutely hates her kennel. I may try one of your suggestions as they look much more comfortable than the one we have now.
    We just got a new little puppy named “Max” also named by my granddaughter. So far Mittens has been very accepting of Max which surprised all of us!
    Hoping you have a “Purr” fect day!

    1. Hi Karin!
      Thanks for taking time to stop by and read my article.
      I’m so glad your kitty Mittens and pup Max are getting along. It’s not unusual when they are introduced early in life. My 2 cats and my dog all get along great even though the older cat (Chloe) and dog (Lucy) are the same age – 11 years, and the new kitten (Misha) is just 5 months. There’s a method to introducing a new animal to existing animals, I wrote about it in a previous post.
      Hope you all have a Purr-fect day as well!
      Come back soon to see what’s new!
      All the best,
      Kyle Ann

  3. I never really gave much thought to many of your suggestions. Especially, starting early handling your cat, as would a vet. I like that idea.
    I have to ask, how many cats do you have?

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for taking time to stop by and read my article.
      At the moment I have 2 cats, Chloe 11 years old and Misha 5 months old. Chloe had a twin sister (Zoe) who passed away from stomach cancer last fall. I also had a 15 year old Pixie-Bob cat named Titan who passed last Dec. That’s one reason I adopted Misha 6 weeks ago.
      I also have a lab/spaniel mix dog Lucy 10 years old and they all get along great.
      I hope you have a furry companion in your life, they truly bring so much joy.
      All the best.
      Kyle Ann

  4. We’ve had many cats in my life. I wish this article had been published 20 years ago. 🙂 I imagine your cats are eager to enter their crates with no enticement. If I should ever get another cat I’m going to practice pre-veterinarian habits using these fantastic suggestions.

    Thanks for posting this.

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and read my article.
      My newest kitten Misha is still learning but my 11 year old cat Chloe is a champ!
      Feel free to come back and see what’s new. Hope you get to add a furry companion to your life soon.
      All the best.
      Kyle Ann

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