GETTING YOUR CAT TO THE VET AS STRESS-FREE AS POSSIBLE
The Fear Free sm initiative focuses on creating a veterinary experience that keeps your cat in a calm and happy state of mind. All of our staff at the Animal Hospital of Orleans are trained and certified in Fear Free sm protocols. Making the veterinary experience the best it can be for you and your cat is both a passion and a goal of ours.
Common differences you will note at a Fear Free sm Certified Practice include the use of treats and praise throughout the visit. If your cat has an allergy or food sensitivity, be sure to let us know ahead of time and bring along the high value treats you use at home. Some cats respond better to toys, so feel free to bring your cat’s favorite toys so we can play and diffuse anxiety throughout the appointment.
If you have questions about helping your cat have a more Fear Free Veterinary Experience, please contact us or visit fearfreehappyhomes.com. We can’t do it alone! The Fear Free sm experience starts at home.
Cats are notoriously stressed about coming in to see us; so many people just wait until their cat is sick before bringing them in. But cats need wellness exams as much as, if not more than dogs, since they hide their illnesses until they are critical.
AHHHHH, THE DREADED CARRIER!
Is this how your cat’s veterinary appointment starts every year? The morning of the appointment, you go down into the basement or the shed to get the cat carrier and dust off the cobwebs. You put the carrier down on the floor in the kitchen and go searching for your cat, who is usually asleep in the window, until today, where the noise from the carrier’s door clanking sent your cat off into it’s favorite hiding space. You spend at least 20 minutes searching for your cat and another 20 minutes attempting to get your cat into the carrier. Head first, butt first, maybe stand the carrier up or toss some treats into it, while your cat is under one arm, attached to your clothing, because you know if you put it down, he or she will go back into hiding!
Sound familiar? Well, what if you left the carrier out for your cat to enjoy all the time? It can be done! The goal is to get your cat to associate the carrier with positive things and routinely enter the carrier on its own.
Let’s start with carrier choices. The best carrier to purchase is one that you can take the entire top off and has two doors, one in the front and one on top. (see pic below). Now that you have the perfect carrier, what’s next?
1. Place the carrier in a location that your cat likes to hang out in.
2. Place soft bedding or your sweatshirt that your cat likes to sleep on in there.
3. Sneak some treats in there for your cat to find on a daily basis.
4. Feed your cat in its carrier.
5. Put a spritz of Feliway spray (mimics the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure) in the carrier once a day.
6. Every so often, cover with a towel. (We will ask you to do this on the day you come for your appointment.)
APPOINTMENT DAY HAS ARRIVED! UMMM, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
You’ve got this! Fluffy loves her carrier now. You can just toss a treat in there and in she goes. (Wicked awesome job by the way!) So, what can you do to pre-prep for your veterinary visit and the car ride there?
1. Try to ensure that your cat is hungry when you arrive for their appointment (unless otherwise advised by a staff member). For instance, if their appointment is scheduled in the morning, wait to feed them their breakfast until afterwards. If they have an appointment later in the day, you could feed them half of their normal breakfast and save the rest for a later meal. This will help make the food rewards that we offer seem very enticing. Just like with people, food often tastes best when your pet is hungry.
2. About 30 minutes before you’re ready to leave, spritz the inside of the carrier with Feliway or a Feliway wipe.
3. Leave your carrier where it always is and entice your cat into it with some favorite treats.
4. Cover the carrier with a towel especially while traveling. Most cats would prefer not to see the world racing by while they are standing still.
5. Traveling in the carrier can be a bit rocky-rolly. Always carry the carrier from underneath to help reduce the need for your cat to attempt surfing. Never just carry by the handle.
6. Place the carrier on the floor of the car or seat belt to the seat.
7. Play soft-rock/reggae/or Species-Specific Calming Music:
a. Download from Spotify or Napster (“Through a Cat’s Ear”)
You can even start the music before leaving the house. Transfer the music to the car and play it all the way to the office. We will be playing the same type of music in our reception area and exam rooms.
b. On regular radio: Channel 107.5 plays classical music
c. On Sirius XM: Ch 311: Yacht Rock plays soft rock or Ch. 42 The Joint plays reggae
You pull into our parking lot, stress-free, because you have been listening to classical music all morning and you didn’t have to do the carrier fight. You are amazing! You feel amazing! You can do this! But now it’s appointment time.
Is this your first visit to AHO? Well, you can fill out your paperwork beforehand and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the Fear Free Pre-visit Questionnaire form and our New client/patient forms online at animalhospitaloforleans.com. You can also have your cat’s previous history and vaccines emailed over or faxed to 508 255-9709.
When you come in, you can just head over to the left of the receptionist desk, to our Cat Only Reception area. There is a cabinet there to put your carrier on, next to a Feliway diffuser. If you forgot to cover your carrier with a towel, there are some in the cabinet. If one of the stress triggers for your cat is the waiting room, you can check-in with us from your car at 508 255-1194 and we will come out and get you when the cat exam room is open.
Once in the room, place your carrier on the floor and open the door. We want your cat to come out and explore. If you brought your cat’s favorite treats with you, GREAT, toss some on the floor in front of the carrier. We have some toys and a laser light in the room that you can use to entertain your cat while you wait. Calming music is also being played in our reception and exam rooms along with species specific pheromone diffusers.
We will be feeding tons of treats, giving catnip, using toys, to try to keep your cat distracted during his/her visit. We try to get all vaccinations, blood draws, etc., in the exam room, with you present. If you prefer not to be present, we will ask you to leave the exam room for a minute while the procedures are being done. We prefer to try to leave your cat in the exam room instead of him/her being carried back to the hospital treatment area. It is less stressful for them.
If you think your cat was still a little bit stressful, we can give you a “Home Care Kit” which contains Zylkene, a natural milk-protein which helps calm a lot of cats and dogs. It is something you can sprinkle on their food prior to the appointment. Or if your cat was really high-stressed, we can prescribe an antianxiety medication to be given prior to their next visit.
COMING HOME TO A MULTI-CAT HOUSEHOLD
We know that cats are like potato chips and most people can’t have just one! Cats are super sensitive to smells, and unfamiliar smells can result in one cat no longer recognizing another. Usually if cats are brought together, there isn’t a problem. Aggressive behavior can occur when one cat senses another as a stranger. These suggestions can help avoid problems between cats following a veterinary visit:
1. Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how the others react.
2. Keep separate for a minimum of 24 hours.
3. Spray Feliway around the house to provide the sense of familiarity.
Our mission is to make coming to the vet a happy and stress-free experience for the whole family. The last thing we want is for your cat to fear the one place that is fully committed to ensuring they live a happy and healthy life!