Visits to the vet can be a worrying time for both you and your cat. Older pets can be especially anxious, so one way that you can help ease anxiety is by helping your moggy to become comfortable with the journey to the clinic in advance.
For many owners, going to the vet involves driving. Being territorial and feeling vulnerable away from home (especially as they age) most cats are not particularly happy travellers, which can be difficult when it comes to vet check-ups. So you’ll probably need to take a few preparation measures to keep your cat relaxed and calm for the journey ahead.
A carrier is essential – choose one that is large enough for your cat, strong, secure and easy to clean in case of accidents. Cardboard boxes, for example, are no match for a determined cat! A carrier that opens at the top is great as your cat can be gently lifted in or out, and when going to the clinic it’s a good idea to drape her carrier with a cloth so she can’t see other animals.
To make it familiar to your puss, keep the carrier somewhere she is normally fed or chooses to sleep, so it doesn’t only appear when a visit to the vet is imminent. It’s a good idea to put the bedding that she usually sleeps on or curls up on at home in the carrier for comfort. Having several layers of towels or blankets in the carrier will also help protect her from the bumps and jolts of driving, which can be hard on older joints and bones.
When it’s nearly time to leave, spray the carrier with a calming synthetic cat scent or pheromone like Feliway, but do this at least 15 minutes before putting your cat in it. You can also wipe a soft cloth around her face to pick up her scent and rub it around the carrier, especially in the corners. If your cat panics at the sight of the carrier, keep calm. Gently wrap her in a thick towel or blanket that smells familiar and carefully ease her, and the towel, into the carrier.
Introduce your cat to car travel gradually, starting with short trips – lead up to a longer journey slowly, always followed by rewards of attention and treats. When you’re going on a journey, though, don’t feed your cat immediately before travel – having an empty stomach will make her less likely to vomit. Make sure you give her plenty of water to stay hydrated, which can also help to settle her stomach. Remember, though, that older cats often need to go to the toilet more frequently, so she may need to use a litter tray soon after arriving at the vet.
Above all, stay calm yourself as this will prevent your moggy from picking up stress signals from you. Be reassuring and your cat will sense that she is in safe hands.