ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Does your cat hate going to the veterinary clinic? I get it. Lots of cats freak out with anything away from home. Despite the safety and trust you’ve nurtured in your cat she is a hunter who can also be hunted. A white-coated stranger in a funky smelling place reaching into her carrier – the perception of threat is real.
Clever cats learn to dodge this ordeal, or at least postpone it. By hiding their symptoms, like reducing activity to disguise breathing difficulties or jumping less because their joints hurt, they avoid appearing vulnerable to predators that may be lurking in the closet or under the bed. Our kitties are born fakers. Don’t buy it.
Purchase a plastic cat carrier with a removable top half. Leave it out, covered with a towel, with a few tasty morsels inside. Spray the inside with the calming pheromone Feliway and your crafty kitty will think he’s discovered nirvana. Repeat weekly.
On the appointed day you can preempt your cat’s fear of travel with a safe prescription anti-anxiety medication called gabapentin. An hour before the adventure begins add the contents of a 100 mg capsule to a small amount of food, inside the carrier. To reduce the whirlies, carry the covered carrier not by its handle but with both of your arms under the bottom.
Park the carrier next to you in the front seat so you can speak soothingly to your kitty as you drive maddeningly carefully. Dial the reception desk as you arrive and explain that you want a return call when the exam room is ready. When you get the go-ahead, clutch the covered carrier to your chest as you waltz gracefully, directly to the exam room, bypassing the barking dogs.
Cats feel safer if they’re covered with a towel inside in their carriers. When the good doctor arrives you’ll lift the top half of the carrier allowing an exam, vaccination, almost anything, without your kitty ever touching the table. Everybody survives.
Who does this? Most veterinarians and their staffs will be happy to work with you. To find a clinic nearby that’s trained in these methods, go to fearfreepets.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in-person and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.