My Cat Hates Going to the Vet
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Cats are not only creatures of routine, they are creatures of place. There are few events which can upset both these factors in a cat's life as much as a trip to the veterinarian. While not all cats will react in the same way, when we take a cat to the veterinarian they may become very worried. Some cats can even become aggressive and cause injury to their guardians or the veterinary staff. Not only is the process a difficult one, but the cat can become very stressed. Since we often take the cat to the vet when they are ill, adding stress can exacerbate the situation greatly.
At AnimalWised we find out why my cat hates going to the vet. Once we have done so, we can look at some practical ways you can help your cat go to the veterinary clinic without incident.
Why does my cat hate the veterinarian?
There may be come cats which will happily go to the veterinary clinic, but many more will find the situation uncomfortable. The reasons why cats don't like this visit have a lot to do with their nature, but previous experiences can inform them also.
- The unknown: cats and humans communicate in various ways, but it can be difficult to explain to a cat that going to a veterinarian is in their benefit. When we place a cat in a cat carrier, they will not know the reason for it. From their perspective, they are put into a small confined space for no reason. This can cause insecurity and even aggression.
- Breaking routine: as we have stated in the introduction, cats are creatures of habit. They like to have autonomy over their actions, something which is taken away when we bring them to the vet. This can lead to stress and other issues.
- Trauma: the first time a cat was likely place in a carrier was when they were a kitten. When separated from their mother, it takes time for them to adjust to their new home. They may associate the carrier with this traumatic event and not want to go near it. If they have been to the veterinarian before, they may have been very ill, were given a painful shot or encountered otherwise traumatic experiences.
- Lack of training: while cats can be trained to a certain extent, it is not the same as dogs. Dogs want to please their reference person in a way cats do not. With a dog, we can use basic commands to help them maintain calm when going to the veterinarian, but cats cannot respond in the same way.
- Other animals: when we go to the veterinarian, cats will likely be exposed to other animals. This can include dogs and other pets which they see as predators. For this reason, the cat can become very scared when placed in a room with a lot of animals they would otherwise avoid.
- The car: it is most common for us to take our cat to the veterinarian via car or other vehicular transport. These machines are loud and confined which can cause the cat to be very scared.
Now we know why cats may hate going to the veterinarian, we can look at some practical ways to help them feel secure and make the process as easy as possible.
1. Create positive associations
While we may need to take a cat to a veterinary clinic in an emergency, we often know in advance that we have to go. In these cases, we can prepare the cat and help them get used to their carrier.
The first thing we need to do is ensure we have the right pet carrier. The cat needs to be able to stand up inside their carrier and turn around with ease. For cat breeds such as the Maine Coon that are very large, too small a carrier can be detrimental to their well-being.
Once we have a suitable carrier, place a comfortable blanket inside. Make the carrier homey and welcoming. You can place treats and toys inside for their benefit. You can even use synthetic pheromones or catnip to help the cat feel comfortable and associate the carrier with something positive.
Do not put the cat in the carrier immediately. Place a treat and/or some toys in the carrier and leave the door open. Let the cat enter and exit as much as they want. Eventually, you should see the cat goes into the carrier and then stays inside. Only then should you close the door. Then, open it soon after and show the cat they will be able to get out again. This slow process will help the cat associate the carrier positively.
2. Driving to the vet
As many cats hate the car journey to the veterinarian, we may need to focus our assistance on this part of the trip. Before we go to the veterinarian, we should take the cat in the car for a very short trip. Once they are used to the carrier, take them round the block in the car and then bring them back inside. Do not drive fast and make the journey as smooth as possible. You can take them for longer and longer trips so they get used to it.
When in the car or other vehicle, maintain positivity. You should bring some treats with you and slip them some through the door if they become agitated. Used calming voices and prevent the carrier from moving around. Bring pheromones with you and do what you can to ensure their well-being.
Learn some more practical tips with our article on how to stop a cat getting dizzy in the car.
3. At the veterinarian
If your cat hates going to the veterinarian, you should notify your veterinary practitioner. They should be aware of the cat's sensibility so they can know what to expect. The vet might be able to provide a seat somewhere away from other animals while you wait. They can practically prepare the room to best ensure the cat is comfortable and they can be mentally prepared for a potentially aggressive cat.
When we are in the waiting room, we should use the same positive reinforcement as when in the carrier and car. Bring treats, use reassuring voices and keep them calm. If our cat is very scared by other animals, it may be helpful to bring a blanket and place it over the carrier.
4. Your behavior
While it is understandable we will be focusing on the behavior of our cat if they hate going to the vet, we need to ensure we behave appropriately. Cats will feel insecure if we feel insecure, so maintain calm and be firm.
It is important to drive calmly and carefully when we have a cat in the car. Not only will this prevent motions which can cause the cat insecurity, but the loud noise of the car and traffic can be disorientating. Once in the veterinary clinic, we will need to ensure we keep reassuring them.
If our cat hates going to the vet, what we don't do is as important as what we do. We should never scold or punish the cat. If they are scared about going to the clinic, it is normal and part of their nature. Scolding them will only make them feel more scared and exacerbate the situation for the next time. We need to use positive reinforcement for cats at all times.
Now you know how to to get a cat to the veterinary clinic, take a look at our video about what to expect with their first visit:
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Hates Going to the Vet, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.