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Fear Free Part 3: Cats

February 21, 2017

We are so thankful and proud of our staff who have become certified Fear Free Professionals. Most of you have probably never heard this term. What does “Fear Free” mean? We introduced the topic in our general Fear Free blog http://grandavevet.com/fear-free-certification-part-1/ and detailed the changes for dogs in our Fear Free Part 2 blog http://grandavevet.com/fear-free-part-2-dogs/.

Today’s blog will focus on cats! We’ve had incredible feedback about our fear free cat visits and want to share some basic tips and info about what you can do to prepare at home, during transport and what to expect during your visit.

  1. Although soft sided carriers are nice, we recommend purchasing a carrier that is plastic and can easily be taken apart – i.e. snaps, rather than screws, that can easily be undone to remove the top and door. These carriers allow cats to stay in a familiar environment throughout their vet visit.
  2. Make the carrier an enjoyable location, feeding meals or treats inside and keeping a nice familiar blanket inside. Many cats will start to use carriers as a nice location to nap.
  3. If possible, take practice trips in the car with your cat in the carrier. If you adopt a kitten, start this right away!
  4. Although cats aren’t great at eating treats or food at the vet, we recommend you bring your cat to the clinic hungry! This will encourage him or her to be more interested in treats or canned food that can be used to distract during an exam, shots or other procedures such as blood draws.
  5. Depending on the weather, we recommend starting your car before you leave for the clinic and either cooling or warming your car to a similar temperature as your home.
  6. Try to get your cat into the carrier with as little force as possible. This is why acclimating cats to the carrier ahead of time can be helpful. If your cat is resisting, consider wrapping he or she in a towel and gently putting them into the carrier. Another option is to put the carrier on end and put your kitty in rear end first.
  7. Cover the carrier with a towel, sheet or blanket and carefully carry it to your car, taking care not to swing or jostle it too much.
  8.  Once you arrive at the clinic, keep the towel over the carrier, bring it in as gently as possible and place the carrier on a level surface, facing away from other animals. We do our best to get you into a room right away, but sometimes our schedule or circumstances in the clinic may require you to wait for a few minutes in the waiting area.
  9. If your cat gets very nervous at the vet, we typically recommend keeping him or her in the carrier until the doctor is ready to examine your cat. This lessens the anxiety of going in and out of the carrier several times during the visit. As mentioned above, we may even perform the exam in the bottom of the carrier. Some cats like to sit in our scales too which seems to make them feel secure.
  10. All of our exam rooms are prepped with diffusers containing Feliway, a calming pheremone that works only on cats. Our staff uses the spray version on our clothing and we spray it on warmed towels that are also used for most cat visits. For nervous cats or those that don’t travel well, consider purchasing Feliway spray to use on bedding in the carrier.
  11. You’ll notice that we try to keep our voices soft and low and limit the amount of times we enter and exit the room. We try to keep a “touch gradient” as well. This means that we try to keep a hand on your cat at all times so he or she gets used to our touch and isn’t startled by us moving to different areas of the body during an exam or procedure.
  12. Sometimes, no matter how much prep and work you put in and no matter what steps we take on our end, we end up with fearful, anxious or very reactive cats. Rather than “push through” and get done as quickly as possible, we highly recommend using medications to help reduce anxiety and allow us to perform thorough exams or procedures. We have had tremendous success using medications that are given at home, typically the night before the visit and then repeated 2 hours prior to coming in. These medications are safe, typically easy to give in food and help in many circumstances. Sometimes, we will reschedule an appointment and try again in several weeks using a medication beforehand.
  13.  In extreme cases, for reactive cats that need certain treatments like x-rays or bloodwork or even just a thorough exam and vaccines, we may also need to give sedatives in the clinic that allow us to provide the care your cat needs. Please understand that your pet’s well-being and experience is our primary concern. If we recommend medication it is not because you have done anything wrong or that your pet is “bad”. Reactive behavior is rooted in fear and giving medications can reduce this fear and anxiety and allow us to help your pet in the best possible way.


As always, please call us with any questions!

Dr. Heather Taylor, Grand Avenue Veterinary Center

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