How to Bring Your Cat to the Vet

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The Dreaded Vet Visit: Do’s and Don’ts For Your Ragdoll Kitty

Some would think that the issue of how to bring your Ragdoll kitty to the vet is no big deal – but they have probably never experienced a cat in full veterinary stress mode. Bringing your cat to the vet can be a somewhat traumatic experience for your poor pet. And if you aren’t careful with your approach to this endeavor, it can also end up being a traumatic experience for you – that is, if your cat starts acting up and making you feel awkward!

But a trip to the vet does not have to be a total nightmare. If you’ve got a good vet, you prepare well and stay attuned to your cat’s needs, you can do a lot to reduce their stress. As you prepare for a vet visit, consider some practices that should be avoided and some that could be helpful to your kitty.

Rags in Carrier at Vet

Don’t…

While there are definitely several things pet owners can do to make their cat’s vet experience less stressful, let’s start with the most common pitfalls:

Hold your cat in your arms. This is not only for your kitty’s safety, but also for your own. When cats go to the vet, they are usually anxious and scared of the new place and will often use their claws to get out of your hands or to hold on tighter. A vet is an unfamiliar place full of unfamiliar smells and sounds, so plan for your cat to be stressed and protect yourself by transporting them using a carrier.

Let your cat wander or expose them to other pets. Keep your cat away from other animals at a clinic, as these other pets can stress your cat out further and increase their risk of picking up a disease. Keeping them off of the floor of a veterinary clinic also reduces this risk.

Skip out on vet visits because you don’t want a day of stress for you or your cat. Regular vet visits are hugely beneficial for cats – preventative care is a much more effective (and ultimately cheaper) alternative to treating cat health problems that have worsened unnoticed. Remember that your kitty ages more quickly than humans, and cats are very good at hiding symptoms of health issues. So brace yourself, do your best to keep your cat calm, and for the sake of your cat’s health get them to the vet regularly!

Do…

Getting them to the vet regularly is easier said than done, so here are some concrete things you should do to create a more positive experience for you and your kitty:

Choose vets wisely. There are a lot of things good vets can do to help ease stress for cats and owners: How is the waiting room? Are there feline only areas or quieter corners? What about pheromone diffusers? When you get into the examination room, observe how your vet handles the checkup. Is the room clean, with examination table wiped down? Are all supplies handy, or does the vet have to leave the room to retrieve things? You want a vet who is well prepared and mindful of your cat’s stress levels, increasing meaningful face time with your and your pet and decreasing distractions and additional stresses.

Leave plenty of time to prepare. The process of a stress-free vet visit begins long before you even leave your home. Give yourself plenty of time to get your cat ready to so that the visit will be as calm and unhurried as possible – a last minute rush out the door will put your cat in an agitated state before you even arrive at the clinic.

Preparation can also begin well before this moment. Acclimating your cat to being touched and handled, as well as to being transported in a carrier, can make them better mentally prepared to deal with some of the anxiety-inducing elements of a vet visit.

Use a carrier. This is truly the most important thing to remember when bringing your cat for a vet visit. Carriers are an important part of giving your cat a safe haven on a trip to the vet – or on any trip for that matter. Cats always like to position themselves so that they can see everything, but still be hidden. Therefore, a plastic carrier with holes and a grate door are ideal for cats, as they allow them the protection and the views they desire. The carriers that you can unscrew, unbuckle or unzip the top of the carrier from the bottom and have access to your cat are the best. That way, the cat feels comforted because she or he hasn’t been pulled out of the carrier. The stress is less!

Since sometimes half the battle is getting your cat in the carrier in the first place, here are some tips for handling that step:

  • Train them early on to get into the carrier and ride in your vehicle.
  • Leave the carrier out around the house so that it becomes familiar to the cat.
  • Use familiar scents from blankets or towels in the carrier, or a synthetic pheromone scent to calm them.
  • Understand your cat’s anxiety and be patient and loving!

Call and update the clinic. If you’ve loaded your cat in their carrier and they are already in panic mode, it’s a good idea to call ahead to the vet and let them know your what your cat’s temperament is at the moment. This way they can be better prepared for the visit and help you find ways to keep your cat calm once you arrive.

Let the vet do the handling. Once your cat is in the exam room, let your vet take your cat from the carrier and do all the handling. Even the sweetest cat at home can become frightened and subsequently aggressive at the vet office. That’s actually what they are supposed to do, given the circumstances. Your vet has been trained to interpret and anticipate this sort of behavior and knows how to react to it.

Stay positive. Animals feed off of the energy their owners radiate – so if you are stressed about the visit, your cat will pick up on that feeling and mirror it. Keep the positive vibes going to soothe your kitty as much as possible.

Vet visits are not to be missed at the risk of a cat health issue developing unnoticed, so don’t let the stress deter you – stay calm, and trust in good preparation and the expertise of a good vet to get your cat through the experience!

What do you do to keep your Ragdoll cat calm for a vet visit?

Comments (13)

  1. When you take your cat to the vets,is there a way to make the basket more relaxing and pleasant,to avoid the nightmare of getting scratched to death and practically having your ears damaged from all the screeching?

    1. What do you mean? The basket? The carrier? My mom uses these carriers – that you can take apart, so you don’t have to touch the kitty at all. And actually our vet recommends that the owner NOT remove the kitty from the carrier, rather the vet tech does. Take a look at this video and let me know if you think these carriers might work out better for you:

  2. What a great post with so many valuable tips. This post couldn’t be more timely for us today because Illaria and Gracie went for their routine checkup and shots. Have learned over the years that even though you know your kitty, you never know what could scare them silly, so always take them in a carrier for their safety. When we were leaving the office, saw a girl carrying a large cat in a cardboard box and couldn’t help her get that kitty inside fast enough because I could just see it jumping out and running to never be seen again across the highway. Thankfully, both Illaria and Grace are so docile that there is nothing to worry about and usually sit with both of them in my arms. That said, if I didn’t know how they react, would never do that. Miss Mari is going for her 6 month checkup for her chronic renal failure and for her annual shots on Monday and God help us all. She is a rescue with many emotional scars that must get majorly triggered when we take her anywhere. In fact, she hates being handled in any way unless it is her own idea. So, she will be crated (found that setting the crate up on it’s end and lifting her up and then letting her back down in it, is the easiest way to get her in it. Otherwise, she has all 4 legs blocking the door! Last time, even after giving her Rescue Remedy and 2 Canna Companions, she went totally beserk as soon as we got in the door, screaming, hissing and spitting like crazy. It was so bad that they had to get out their long gloves and towels and get her that way. In the process of her just being near me, I was bitten when she flew by me. So, this time, my husband will be there because he is her PURSON and hope that it helps calm her nerves. Think that also, she may be reacting to pain and just plain feeling ill and grouchy and feel so sad she is not doing well but she has to have her labs drawn to continue her medications and check her renal failure.
    One other thing about them getting used to the carrier – I put some treats and catnip in there about a week prior so they can peruse it and see that it’s not a terrible place to be.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Teresa. It’s funny – not until we started going to the all cat vet did I learn that it is better for the vet and vet tech to handle the kitty – rather than the owner trying to pull them out. Makes so much more sense.

      1. I should clarify something I said. I DO put each of them in their own carrier to take them to the vet. Funny if you try to put both cats in a large carrier together, they want to fight even if they dearly love each other. When I said I hold them on both sides of my lap, that is AFTER I get inside the exam room and everything is calm. Sorry for not being clear about that.♥

    2. I agree with Teresa! Great post, Jenny! We have a cat carrier very similar to the one in the video you posted for Natasha. We don’t have a problem getting Miss PSB in the carrier. She’s very much like Teresa’s Miss Illaria and Gracie. Very docile in that respect. I can’t think of a thing to mention that you or Teresa didn’t mention! 🙂 <3

      Big hugs & lots of love!

      Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂

      P.S. Teresa, so glad that the vet visit today was a big success for your baby girls. I know that you must be dreading that visit on Monday with Miss Mari. Will be sending lots of extra prayers that day for her test results to be the same (i.e., her condition hasn't worsened) and for the hassle of getting her there, examined and back home to be less than you expect. *GREAT BIG HUGS* <3 <3 <3

  3. Hi Jenny,

    I will be taking my new kittens to the vet for a general check up just 2 days after bringing them home from the breeder. I feel bad for them that they will barely have had a chance to get used to us and their new home before experiencing the stress of the trip to the vet.

    To lessen their anxiety, I was going to take them in one carrier so they would have each other for comfort (they will only be 12 weeks old). I do have separate carriers for them, it just seems they would feel more frightened being alone.

    Do you recommend I take them in the same carrier? I value your input!

    Thanks in advance,
    Cinde

  4. I can deal with taking them to the vet without too much fuss but my kitten is outgrowing the soft carrier (he’s going to easily pass 22 lbs as an adult) and I don’t like hard carriers. I haven’t been able to find one for a 3′ long cat do they even exist?

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