Does the very sight of the cat carrier make your cat turn and run? Have you ever needed to reschedule a veterinary visit because your cat was hiding under the house, refusing to come near you or the cat carrier?
Or worse, have you put off taking your cat to the veterinarian because you knew it would be a struggle to even get them through the front door? If so, you’re not alone. Research has shown that pet owners often delay seeing the veterinarian if they know their pet is afraid of the veterinary clinic.
Unfortunately, avoiding the veterinary clinic can lead to illnesses and injuries going undiagnosed, so it’s important to regularly visit the veterinarian even if your pet is reluctant. Read on for our handy tips and advice to help your cat overcome their fear of the veterinarian.
My cat is scared of the carrier
We know that cats which are exposed to their carrier frequently and at non-stressful times (a process called ‘desensitizing’) are less likely to become stressed at the veterinary clinic. Often the visual of the cat carrier triggers a fear response in cats due to past experiences, making them very reluctant to go anywhere near it.
Although the best time to desensitize your cat to their carrier is when they are a kitten, the next best time is now. Start by leaving your cat’s carrier out in the house. Wedge the door open and put a comfy blanket or cushion on the bottom of the carrier.
Offer your cat treats to spend time in the carrier. Keep the door open. Consider putting a towel or blanket over the carrier and encourage them to use the top of the carrier as a bed. The aim is to normalise the carrier and make it an ‘ordinary’ part of the furniture.
Reward calm and quiet behaviour
When your cat is sitting inside the carrier quietly and calmly, offer them a small treat as a reward or use a toy to play with them inside the carrier. By associating the carrier with something enjoyable, it will begin to remove any fear or stigma attached to the sight of the carrier.
Take them to the veterinarian regularly
It might seem strange but taking your cat in the carrier for a drive around the block, or for a visit to the veterinarian for treats but nothing else (not a formal consult, just to visit the staff) will do wonders to decrease the fear associated with trips to the veterinarian. The key is to make a trip in the carrier a normal thing and not only associated with veterinary visits. Your local veterinary clinic would be more than happy to assist you in this process by applying cuddles and treats when your cat arrives.
If your cat is particularly anxious or stressed about visiting the veterinarian, another great idea is to seek out a ‘Fear-Free’ accredited veterinary clinic or a ‘cat-only’ or ‘cat-friendly’ clinic. These clinics often have undergone extra training and changed their practice layout to specifically accommodate cats.