A Less Stressful Vet Trip for Your Cat

Many cats hate going into their carrier, let alone getting strapped into a car and being carried through a vet’s office. But, we have to do it. Our furry friends need checkups and vaccinations, and unless your vet comes to you, traveling to the vet is just part of having a cat.

So, how can we make it a less stressful trip for our feline companions?

  • Leave their carrier out all the time. Many cats like to hang out in small spaces where they can feel safe, and a cat carrier is no exception. If your cat is used to hanging out in the carrier, getting them into it before their check up will be less stressful for everyone involved. You can help your cat get used to it by occasionally tossing a tasty treat in and letting them check it out at their own pace.
  • If you have more than once cat, have one carrier for each cat. Even though they’re the bestest friends at home, some cats can get very stressed when confined to a carrier and brought into a potentially stressful environment, like a car or vet’s office, and lash out. Prevent any cat fights by putting each cat in their own carrier.
  • Stay calm before your cat’s vet appointment. If you’re worried and stressed out about taking your cat to the vet, your cat will pick up on that and get worried and stressed out too. Try to stay calm, and if you have some spare time, just hang out with your cat for a bit. Everyone loves a few extra cuddles!
  • Once your cat is in the kennel, toss a towel over the top to help your cat feel less exposed. Keeping unfamiliar visual stimuli to a minimum will help your cat feel safer during the drive, and your time in the waiting room. If you think your cat wants to be able to see what’s going on, consider folding up a corner of the towel, but keeping the rest of the carrier covered so they can retreat, if needed.
  • Keep your cat in the kennel. Even if you think your cat would be happier snuggling with you versus sitting in the carrier–keep the carrier closed. Your cat will absolutely be safer in the carrier. It only takes a split second for your cat to dash out an opening car door, or be spooked in the waiting room.
  • Once in the exam room, open the kennel door and let your cat check out the new looks and smells while you’re waiting for the vet. If they want to come out on their own, let them explore. If they want to wait in their kennel, that’s okay too. Your vet will help get them out when needed.
  • Kennel up again for the ride home, and once home, put the carrier in a quiet spot at home and let your cat come out when they’re ready. It might be immediately, or they might want to hang out in the kennel for a little while–and that’s okay.

Leaving home can be stressful for many cats, but hopefully a little less stressful for your cat with these tips. If you’re worried about taking your cat into the vet, call your vet ahead of time and let them know. They’ll be able to give you personalized suggestions, as well as any anxiety prescriptions that you might be able to give your kitty ahead of time. If you absolutely can’t get your cat into a carrier, ask them about using a live trap. Live traps might be the best option, especially for outdoor feral cats you’re trying to get into the clinic. Your vet or local animal shelter will be able to provide some tips on using live traps.

Before your cat’s next vet appointment, consider starting out small with some mock vet exams at home. Start by petting your cat, then feeling their paws, then looking in their mouths–things that your vet will do at an annual check up. Your cat will eventually think she’s getting spoiled with all this one-on-one attention, and your vet will appreciate a cat that likes going to the vet!

By Rachel Leisemann Immel