Cat Behavior, Cat Care

A Day With the Doctor: How to Get Your Cat to the Vet With Minimal Stress

A Day With the Doctor How to Get Your Cat to the Vet With Minimal Stress

You don't like to go to the doctor - unless, of course, she's the lollipop-wielding variety - so why should your cat? In fact, I daresay it's much worse for your kitty. Despite their pointiness, felines are sensitive creatures... they like their routines, usually prefer to stay at home, and they're pretty easy to stress out in general. Unfortunately, there are times when a trip to the veterinarian is absolutely necessary, so it's important to know how to get your cat to the vet with a minimum of stress.

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Coaxing Kitty into the Carrier

When it comes to getting your kitty into his carrier, it's a really good idea to start well ahead of time. Don't just whip that thing out when it comes time for a vet visit. This will create two problems: First, you are trying to convince your wary cat to get into an unfamiliar box, which will rarely end well. Second, cats are smart... if this strange contraption only comes out before a doctor visit, he will come to associate it with negative things - mainly, being carted off to a scary, smelly building away from his comfortable home, only to be poked and prodded by a human he doesn't even like! So let your kitty get familiar with his carrier in advance... at least a week before the visit. If you can leave it around the house all of the time, even better! Also, be sure to fill your cat carrier with things that are familiar and smell either like your home or like you.

Careful Car Rides

Some kitties love car rides, while others... not so much. In some cases, this trip can be the most stressful part of the whole vet-going affair, so it's a good idea to get your buddy ready beforehand. One of the most effective methods for de-stressing car rides is by taking your cat on frequent short trips that don't involve a visit to the vet. This may not be an option, but if it is, the whole process is fairly straightforward.

Begin by getting your kitty into his now-familiar crate, taking him out to the car, and letting him sit with you in the backseat for a little while - with the car door open. If he's a little freaked out, be sure to reassure him as much as you can, and when a few minutes have passed, give him a goody and take him back in. Repeat this a few times until he seems fairly calm. From here, you'll follow some logical steps: Close and open the car door with your cat ensconced in his back seat area, turn the car on and off to get him familiar with the sound, then finally take him on a short drive around the neighborhood.

Of course, there are times when this simply won't work. Some cats just don't like to travel and simply won't get used to it no matter how much you practice. But not to worry, you can still help to ease the fear for your friend by spritzing his crate with pheromone sprays, or letting him play with a toy stuffed with dried Valerian.

Keeping Calm in the Waiting Area

If you're taking your cat to the vet for the first time, let me warn you... waiting rooms can be incredibly intimidating. Not only is this room unfamiliar, it also tends to be loud, and can smell strongly of a lot of strange things, like unknown people, animals, and potent disinfectants. Since the waiting area can be daunting, it's a good idea to give it the once over prior to bringing your cat inside. If there are a lot of barking dogs, boisterous children, or other incredibly loud noises, your best bet might be to check in, then go hang out with your cat in the car for a while.

The Dreaded Vet

When it finally comes time for your cat to see his doctor, you've likely taken all possible steps to keep him calm. At this point, there really isn't much you can do other than stay close at hand - giving the vet enough room, but still being certain that you're visible to your kitty. If possible, and if you're cat is receptive, you can reassure him with a normal speaking voice and gentle chin scratching.

Finally Home

You're now finished and probably heaving a big ol' sigh of relief at this point. But your job isn't quite done yet. Despite all of your efforts, your kitty might still be a little on edge after his appointment. To help ease the situation, place your crated-companion near a spot that he normally likes to rest, open up the door, and let him come out in his own time. Trying to extricate him from that box-of-menace may actually disturb him further, so just give him a bit of time.

If you have a multi cat household, your vet-bound feline will have soaked up some of the odors of the outdoors, which unfortunately, may result in a bit of aggression from his roommates. If you added bedding with a familiar scent - for instance, a worn t-shirt or pillowcase - some of that smell will have rubbed off on your kitty, thus reducing the outdoors stink. If that's not the case, you might try petting your cat with one of those items to help him reacclimate to his usual environment. Although that may be sufficient, in more severe cases of conflict, you may want to keep your cats separated for at least 24 hours, giving your vet-bound friend time to absorb the smells of home while still remaining safe.


Knowing how to get your cat to the vet without completely freaking him out is incredibly important. Nobody likes this trip - not you, not your kitty - but since it is an absolute must, it's a good idea to figure out the best ways to ensure that everyone involved is calm and... well... not happy... but... calm, at least!

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Feature image by Lindsey Turner via flickr under CC BY 2.0

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