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Domestic indoor cats are homebodies. They like their environment, their routine, and avoiding stressful situations at all costs. 

So, when it’s time for a vet visit, they are often difficult (read: impossible) to wrangle and put up an impressive cat-scratching fight.  

Honestly though, who wants to ride in a carrier they only see once a year knowing that the outcome is a loud, bright, unfamiliar place with strangers poking and prodding at you?  

Can you blame them for their vet visit avoiding attitudes? 

Many cat owners dread the visit from the moment they realize their cat is due until the day it arrives. Sometimes they even consider “pushing it off” so as to not upset their feline friend. “Pushing it off” quickly turns into a year…sometimes two…sometimes more.  

The fact is that cats are expert-level disease and injury maskers. That means that while these veterinary checkups are less than fun for them, they are completely necessary and vital to the long-term health of your kitty. Prevention and early detection of disease are your best pals as a responsible pet owner. Figuring out a way to get your cat to the veterinarian for regular visits should be top of mind.  

Most veterinarians will be completely open to coming up with a plan catered to you and your pet, so give them a call and ask! Some are even trained in Fear Free® methods, meaning they take extra steps to ensure a less stressful visit for their patients. 

Here are some ideas for you to consider that could help make the experience less stressful for your cat (and for you):  

  1. Carrier training. 

Like we mentioned earlier in this article, only taking out the carrier once a year for a forced vet visit is sure to spark an anxiety attack every time. What if the carrier became a friend to your cat? Even a safe space?  

Leave the carrier out in a familiar place, and make sure the bedding inside smells like your cat. When they allow you to, rub their bedding on their fur, or leave it where they might normally lounge. Familiar smells reduce stress levels. With the door open, drop your cat’s favorite treat in there from time to time. Keep the relationship with the carrier relaxed and never forced. Build up to occasionally closing the carrier door with your cat inside for short spurts. Don’t leave the room, and don’t let their stress escalate. 

Taking these steps over an extended period of time will help to desensitize your cat to the idea of the carrier. When it’s time for a vet visit, they will feel more relaxed in a familiar and safe place.  

  1. Call your veterinarian’s office ahead of time to arrange a chaos-free entrance.  

Never mind the actual visit with the doctor… have you ever sat in a completely chaotic waiting room at the vet’s office?! Barking dogs, other stressed-out cats, phones ringing, people in and out… it’s not exactly a vacation.  

Find out if your veterinarian can offer you a less stressful experience. See if you can wait in the car until your room is ready or ask for a more private entrance and head straight to the exam room. Cutting out this unnecessary step can be a big difference-maker for your cat and their stress level. 

  1. Find a mobile veterinarian.  

Ah, what a world we live in! Did you know that there are now mobile veterinary clinics that will come to YOU? 

This concept is a cat’s best friend. Some still want you to bring your pet out to their vehicle for an exam, but some will come right into your home. Browse around, call to ask questions, and find one that works best for you and your pet!  

Taking your cat to the veterinarian is necessary, but that does not mean it always has to be an earth-shattering stress fest. Implement these tips and work with your pet’s doctor to come up with your ideal action plan!