Tips to Get Your Cat With Less Stress to the Veterinarian


               By Dr. Michael W. Fox 

Taking your dog to the veterinarian for an annual Wellness examination is generally a breeze as well as meeting your duty of care for your animal companion. But for cat owners this can be more of a challenge and far too many cats rarely, if ever, have an annual check-up. This is especially important for cats in middle-age where dental, weight and other problems can lead to some serious health issues if not nipped in the bud. Those who are allowed to roam outdoors, a practice I abhor, are also at risk from feline diseases which could affect other family members so an annual Wellness examination is extremely important.

Most cats do not take well to a leash and harness or can be carried in your arms without struggling, biting and scratching when you take them to your car to go to a strange place—the veterinary hospital. Never have a loose cat in your vehicle. Use a cat carrier or small crate. In my opinion those made of soft material are best since the inside is padded and cats are less likely to damage teeth and claws if they have a panic attack and try to get out. Get your cat used to being in the container by providing soft bedding and a favorite treat. Keep it in a corner of one of the rooms the cat frequents and put treats in for the cat to find. Call your cat and train him/her to go in and get the treat, then close up briefly. Many cats will even use the carrier as a den, so when it is time to go to the vet’s or you have a home emergency ( fire or flood) you will have less of a problem getting your cat into the carrier. Most cats will protest and fight and even bite when grabbed and forced into a carrier for the first time.

Some cats are easygoing but others are more skittish and unpredictable especially around strangers and in unfamiliar places. The article by French veterinarian DR. Marie Kruszka and associates, ‘Clinical evaluation of the effects of a single oral dose of gabapentin on fear-based aggressive behaviors in cats during veterinary examinations’ published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Vol. 259, p1285-8, 2021) conforms the benefits of giving 100-200 mg of gabapentin to cats 2 hours before a veterinary appointment.

So if you have a cat who is fearful and could be difficult to handle, get a prescription from your veterinarian and give the medication in your cat’s favorite meaty or fishy treat like a canned sardine or chicken. This will make the entire experience less stressful for the cat and for veterinarians who may otherwise be injured and even infected with Bartonellosis form a cat scratch or bite. Unfortunately many have been incapacitated by this disease. ( See Bartonellosis: A zoonosis hidden in plain sight. . › javma-news › bartonellosis-zoon..)

More and more veterinarians make house-calls, often with an assistant as needed on many occasions, and this may be your alternative choice for your cat which you may wish to explore. If your cat is skittish when visitors come and may run away and hide, a pre-visit dose of gabapentin may make the veterinary visit less stressful for all involved.

Cats need periodic veterinary tests for parasites and for cvaccinations especially when new cats are brought into the home and most especially when cats are allowed to roam outdoors. Otherwise they may infect other cats and humans in the home and spread rabies and other diseases into the community. It is also prudent to have your cat microchipped for identification if lost and rescued.