This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.
Routine veterinary exams are an essential part of keeping your cat healthy. However, these visits can be stressful for both of you. And that stress often starts before you have even left home.
For example, the struggle to get your feline into the carrier can start the whole process off on the wrong foot. Making that smoother can help make the entire veterinary visit is easier.
Here are some tips on how to make the carrier a more comfortable place and to reduce the stress of going to the vet:
Understand your cat’s behavior:
Recognize that riding in the car, waiting in the clinic and being handled by unfamiliar people can make your cat anxious. Cats are territorial animals, so taking them from familiar surroundings can make them uneasy.
Stay calm. Cats feed off your emotions. The calmer you are, the calmer your cat will be.
Reward good behavior. Unlike some animals, cats do not respond well to punishments or force. Instead of yelling if your cat is uncooperative, use treats to encourage your cat when it does well. For example, if your cat stays calm and lets the vet handle it during the examination, give something the cat likes, such as food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward each time, so that a strong connection forms in the cat’s mind.
Make the carrier a comfortable place:
Help your cat learn to like the carrier during less stressful times. One way to do this is to encourage your feline to go into the carrier voluntarily by making it a more inviting place. Leave it in a place at home where your cat spends time. Place something soft with your scent on it inside the carrier to help your feline friend feel more secure. Entice the cat to enter by leaving treats or toys inside the carrier. It may take several attempts before your feline gets past its natural wariness, but be patient and always reward good behavior.
Don’t force an unwilling cat into the carrier:
If you have to take the cat to the vet immediately, and it is not yet comfortable with the carrier, do not force your feline friend into it. Instead, try the following:
Spray the inside of the carrier with a synthetic “feel-good” hormone at least 30 minutes before departure.
Put the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring the cat in, close the door and move slowly towards it. Do not chase your feline, but instead, encourage it with treats and toys.
Find gentle ways to put the cat in the carrier, if it is still unwilling to enter. If the carrier opens on top, gently place the feline in through that opening. If the top half of the carrier can be removed, take that off, put the cat in the bottom half, and reassemble the carrier.