Cat owners are often concerned when taking their cats to the vet. In many cases, this can be a very stressful experience in a cat’s life, particularly if they are already debilitated due to illness or pain.
By and large, cats dislike being in their carriers. They don’t like having contact with unknown dogs or cats. And they will feel quite bothered being handled by the veterinary team. Even the most well-mannered and acclimatised pets can have a sharp increase in stress levels during vet visits.
Because of this, many vets are now taking specific measures towards making sure their practices have particular protocols and facilities that have the needs of cats firmly in mind.
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What do cats need for a good visit?
Cats are easily stressed pets, attached to their safe spaces and routines. They will not take particularly kindly to being flung out of the house in a mad rush to get to the vet.
Plus, going to the vet needs to be handled as carefully as possible to avoid a significant dip in comfort if they are sick or otherwise uncomfortable.
While every animal will have different levels of tolerance, here are some of the most important things for a safe, calm visit to the vet:
- Distance from dogs and other pets in the waiting room;
- Reduced exposure to bright lights, loud noises or strong, unusual smells as these can be a source of great stress;
- Having access to a place to hide and escape from negative stimuli. Be it with a cover over their crate, properly enriched cages during hospitalisation or the possibility to wait with the carrier placed on a high table or shelf;
- Being handled with care, patience and without aggressive manual restraint;
- Having a carrier that is adequately designed for comfort, preferably with bedding that the cat usually uses so it smells like them as well as spare bedding from home in case there are any accidents;
Allotting enough time to prepare the carrier, comfort your cat, and arrive at the vets on time is essential to increase your feline friend’s chances of not suffering needless stress.
How can I know my cat will be well cared for?
Choosing a vet is a vitally important decision. But it can also be hard to decide who will be your cat’s primary medical provider. While it’s not an ironclad decision, and you’re at liberty to change or ask for second opinions, it’s best for the continuity of care to remain at the same vets.
Building a solid relationship with your veterinary team takes time, but this relationship is instrumental for your pet’s best care. They have all of the medical records on hand, the team has interacted a lot with your pets, and they are the people who know them best outside of their family. In an emergency, these are the people you want to have close by!
One of the things you can look for is whether the practice or hospital is certified as a ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’ and their level of certification. The International Society of Feline Medicine issues this certification. They perform a strict and comprehensive evaluation before giving a Bronze, Silver or Gold ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’ accreditation.
This accreditation ensures that a ‘Cat Friendly’ clinic will have:
- A team that continuously updates and improves their knowledge on feline medicin. This is to ensure they are providing you advice and treatments that are up to date
- Deep understanding of the best ways to handle cats with gentleness during procedures and examinations. As well as being able to recognise fear and anxiety and advise on how to minimise this
- Waiting rooms that are either cat-only or that have visual barriers to avoid direct contact with dogs and other cats
- Consultation times that are long enough to allow safe handling without rushing or stressing your cat
- Hospitalisation wards with large cages that are opaque, with soft beddings and a hiding place such as an igloo or box
- At Gold level accreditation, waiting rooms and wards will also provide high places above floor level for cats to rest on, such as a shelf or platform
- Surgical, diagnostic and laboratory equipment that is tailored specifically for feline medicine.
Should I take my cat to a certified practice?
Ultimately, this decision will depend on weighing several different factors such as:
- Is the nearest certified location close to me?
- Would changing vets disrupt treatment for a severe illness?
- Does my cat suffer from excessive stress at their current vets?
- How would the new practice or hospital meet my cat’s needs better?
- Do they have all of the equipment and expertise necessary to treat my cat’s problems?
- What are their provisions for emergencies?
Depending on your pet’s individual needs, you might not gain much from seeking out a ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’. Especially if this means long drives!
However, changing to a feline-friendly vet might be just what an easily stressed cat needs to turn terrible consultations and visits into a pleasant or, at least, neutral experience.
If you’re reading this article, we know you have your cat’s best interest at heart. As the person who knows your cat the best, consider all of the pros and cons. Don’t forget to factor in their traits and personality to make a decision.