Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Trip to the Vet Doesn't Have to Be Stressful

August 22 is Take Your Cat to the Vet Day. One would think people wouldn't need to be reminded to take their cats to the vet but the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) state that 83% of cats visit the veterinarian before their 1st birthday, but over 50% never return unless they are sick or in pain. 

Importance of Taking Your Cat to the Vet

One may wonder why it's important to take a feline companions to the veterinarian when she isn't ill or injured. With regular healthcare your veterinarian can often detect conditions that may affect your cat’s long-term health. Cats age more rapidly than humans and reach the human age of 15 by its first year, 24 by its second year, and ages 4 'cat years' for every calendar year. Cats are experts at hiding illness and pain, so a serious health condition could develop before you are ever aware their is a problem. Veterinarians are trained to spot and detect potential problems. Regular examinations can help avoid medical emergencies. The  emotional well-being of a cat can play a major role in all aspects of her life and health and visiting a vet on a regular basis can contribute to meeting all needs of your feline. Why then, don't people take their cats to the vet?

Brulee relaxing on the examination table at the veterinarian's office

Dr. Heyward Boyette, Cherokee Trail Veterinarian in Lexington, SC says

“People are far more likely to bring their dog than their cat to the veterinarian. Yet, cats benefit just as much from routine veterinary care as much as dogs do. If people have cats and they haven’t been to see the vet regularly, we’d love to see them because if they haven’t been to the vet in more than a year, they really need a checkup.” (July 31, 2018) 
One of the reasons given by pet owners for not taking their cats to the vet is the difficulty of getting them into a cat carrier and traveling in the vehicle.

Preparing Your Cat for the Trip to the Vet

Fear Free Happy Homes gives the following recommendations for preparing your feline for the trip to the veterinarian. 
  • Don't feed your cat before the visit.
  • Make sure to give your feline any anti-nausea or anti-anxiety supplements or medications your veterinarian may have prescribed.
  • Consider using a towel, shirt, blanket, or bed sprayed with species-specific calming pheromones to help calm your cat.
  • Make sure your at is acclimated to a carrier prior to a trip and is not stressed by travel confinement.
  • Cats should be resting comfortably in their carrier before being placed in a vehicle.
  • When transporting your cat in a carrier, be sure to minimize movement. If possible, support the carrier from the bottom, with one side resting against your chest, as f you are carrying a fragile gift.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time so you are not rushed.k
  • Prepare the car some it promotes a calming environment.
    • Play calming music specifically composed for cats
    • Apply 6-8 sprays of calming pheromones 10 to 15 minutes prior to placing your cat in the carrier or the car.
    • Make sure your vehicle is cooled or warmed to a comfortable temperature before putting your cat inside.
  • Make sure the carrier is properly secured in the vehicle.
  • To help prevent car sickness, accelerate slowly from a stop, allow extra distance between other vehicles to prevent sudden braking, and take turns slowly.
  • When talking to your pet, be matter of fact and don't speak in a sing-song voice. Your cat may be more calm, happy, and relaxed if you are.
  • As a rule of thumb, cats need 5-10 minutes to adjust to new surroundings and feel safe. If you must wait in the waiting room, place your cat's carrier on an elevated surface and cover the front and two sides with a pheromone-infused towel.

It's important to have a carrier secured properly when traveling, Truffle is in her Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed

A key recommendation given by many animal behaviorists and professionals is to help get your cat acclimated to the carrier prior to any trips. Leaving a carrier it out in the house so the cat is familiar with it and doesn't associate it with trips to the vet is one way to assist with helping your feline be more comfortable with it. Leave the door open, provide favorite treats and toys in the carrier, and choose a location where your cat can relax. I use the Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed (red and violet carriers seen in photos above). The top of this carrier can be removed and the bottom can be used as a cat bed. My vets also use the Sleepypod inside of the cages when the girls need to stay for longer periods of time to assist with their comfort and anxiety. If one of the girls isn't feeling well and doesn't want to come out of the carrier, the veterinarian can remove the top and examine them inside the carrier.

Types of Carriers for Cats

Truffle in her original hard-sided carrier

You're ready to begin acclimating your cat/kitten to a carrier but first you need to decide which type of carrier your cat needs to feel the least amount of stress. Forty years ago when I had my first cat, we used a cardboard box with hole in the side to carry her to the vet. As I look back now, that wasn't the safest type of carrier to transport a cat, but it was all we had at the time. Years later when I was bringing home my first Persian cat, I chose a hard-sided carrier, similar to the one in the photo above. There was only one opening and I had to make sure to use ties on the sides to keep it secure. Some people may need to use hard-sided carriers because of the size of their cat or the type of transportation that may be required. If you choose to use a hard-sided carrier, you may want to consider getting a carrier that has an opening on the top and the side.

Truffle inside her Sleepypod Air Soft-sided Carrier

Another option for cat carriers is a soft-sided carrier. We had a few different designs in the past, but prefer our Sleepypod Air carriers. If you choose a soft-sided carrier, make sure there is plenty of ventilation and that the doors can be securely fastened. The first soft-sided carrier I tried closed with Velcro. I was taking Truffle to the vet in this carrier and the next thing I knew, she'd used her head to push through the Velcro and was climbing onto my lap while I was driving. Our preference for a soft-sided carrier now is the Sleepypod® Air. The Air is designed for airline travel and is a little larger so my cats can move around.

A different type of cat carrier is the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed (red and purple carriers in photos above). Truffle and Brulee prefer these carriers. They don't like to be enclosed in a carrier where they can't see out. The mesh top allows them to see the world outside while they curl up inside where they feel comfortable. 

Whichever carrier you use, you need to acclimate your cat to it before you need to travel. Throw toys or treats in the carrier and leave it out so the cats connect it to their everyday life.

The next thing to do is to make that appointment for a wellness checkup with your veterinarian. Truffle and Brulee have biannual wellness checkups now and I'm thankful for the ability of the veterinarians to collect baseline data to compare each time to monitor their health.

Truffle and Brulee in their Sleepypod Mobile Pet Beds in the waiting area at the Veterinary Hospital


We've shared many photos of Truffle and Brulee in their Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Beds and are excited to announce that one of our readers has the opportunity to win a Sleepypod® Mobile Pet Bed (color may vary from photograph) for her pet.  No purchase necessary. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States 18+ years, except where prohibited by law. The giveaway will run from August 22 - September 5, ending at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter (powered by Random.org) and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to claim her prize; failure to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize and a new winner will be randomly chosen. To qualify for the giveaway, a comment must be left on our blog post.  Other entry options are available after a comment is left.  Please check your email and be sure to add sweetpurrfections@sc.rr.com to your address book!  Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dr. Boyette has developed a great rapport with Truffle


American Animal Hospital Association. https://www.aaha.org.

American Association of Feline Practitioners. Cat Friendly Practices. https://catfriendly.com/keep-your-cat-healthy/cat-friendly-practice/expect-cat-friendly-practice/

Boyette, Heyward. Cherokee Trail Veterinary Hospital. July 31, 2018. (telephone conversation).

dvm360.com Staff. January 9, 2015. Top 10 Ways to Get Started with Fear-Free Veterinary Visits. dvm30. http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/top-10-ways-get-started-with-fear-free-veterinary-visits-sponsored-boehringer-ingelheim-vetmedica-in

Fear Free. Fear Free Happy Homes. https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/veterinary-visit-resources/

Lombardi, Linda. 2019. Study Shows Cat Carrier Training Reduces Stress. Fear Free Pets. https://fearfreepets.com/study-shows-cat-carrier-training-reduces-stress/.

Muth, Felicity. Scientific American. March 30, 2016. What We Understand About Cats and What They Understand About Us. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/not-bad-science/what-we-understand-about-cats-and-what-they-understand-about-us/

Zielinski, Sarah. The Smithsonian Magazine. February 28, 2011, Studying the Bond Between a Cat and Its Human. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/studying-the-bond-between-a-cat-and-its-human-44676063/.

Would you like to comment?

  1. My human didn't realize what day it was when she scheduled my annual health screening for my therapy work... today!

  2. I currently hve hard-sided carriers, but I really need at least one soft-sided one. I loved Jewel's soft-sided carrier, but the zipper broke shortly after she died.

  3. We have the hard sided carriers which I'm totally terrified of. If one is out, I won't go anywhere near Mom Peggy the whole time.

  4. I've always wanted to try a SleepyPod carrier. Currently, I have the hard-sided carriers, one per kitty!

  5. Our vets love our sleepy pod and always ask about them

  6. I don't mind the carrier, or the Vet, if we could only eliminate the car it would be a totally stress-free visit.

  7. Doing everything you can to make the visit less stressful is a great thing. I so remember those trips.

    Our Little Bit (pup) loved going to the vet. There was a cat that lived there and she would look all over the place for that cat.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

  8. Great post. I have the plastic carriers, but I have been coveting a sleepy pod for years.

  9. We have a little 6 pound Shorkie dog, Bella, and just wrap her in a blanket to go to the doctors, even though that doesn't work out so well. She gets out and tries to get on our laps while driving. This would be perfect for her.

  10. We use a soft sided carrier if we can get the cat in.. sometimes we have to use a bigger cage which is hard to carry.

  11. I have a tote bag type that zips up and has a shoulder strap.

  12. I have so many carriers (I have so many cats), I think we’ve tried most kinds. We have loads of the classic hard side ones, a soft sided, Plush has a carrybag that can double as a purse if necessary (if we need to be sneaky), and a backpack, in addition to his regular carrier. I would love a sleepy pod for him in his show shelter (we have a blue theme if I win and they are picking colors lol)

  13. I don't usually travel with my cat. It's stressful for her. Have an old carrier but this would be so much better. Thanks for the chance.

  14. You know who dislikes going to the vet's office? The Hubby! Anytime I mention that it's time for a cat to go, he will volunteer to corral said cat, but all of the rest is up to me! I've wanted a Sleepypod for years!

  15. We have a hard sided carrier, but I know that my small dog and cat would prefer a Sleepypod. I love that they are so much safer than a traditional carrier in case of a car accident.

  16. Hard kennel. I don’t like it though

  17. I use a hard, plastic pet taxi.

  18. Are use a hard carrier but would love to try a soft one.

  19. We have several different types of carriers...and we hate them all! ~Ernie & Zoey

  20. You know, we always wanted one of these carriers but in all seriousness, there's no way the peeps could get me into there and get the zipper closed. The colors are so pretty though. I'll keep getting rammed into my Kennel Cab II. Best of luck to the winner.

  21. I currently use a basic cat carrier for my Moko, who has to travel to the vet frequently due to medical issues. She's very frail and gets stressed when she has to go in the car. I'd love one of these for her - I know she'd be safe and comfortable.

  22. I totally understand the frustration some people have with the difficulty of getting their cat into a cat carrier and traveling with them in a vehicle, but as pet parents, sometimes we have to do things out fur kids don't like. You do give some excellent tips that should make the trips easier!

  23. i use one of the rectangular soft crates that you can open from the top and the side. you can close the sides if you want. it has a nice wide sturdy strap as well.

  24. You had me at "SleepyPod carrier." I've never tried the Air and I'd love to!

  25. We use a hard crate now but would love a SleepyPod!

  26. We go every February. And sometimes more if we don't seem happy. We DO our best to seem happy, though, MOL!

  27. I use a standard plastic crate. This would be great to try!

  28. Do cats need rabies shots? I know that is one of the main reasons people take dogs to the vet. I don't own a cat, but it seems to make sense to have them checked out at least annually. Maybe cats need to get acclimated to travel like dogs do, by taking them more often in the car than just to the vet. My sister had a therapy cat who loved to travel and visit nursing homes! The right type of carrier for any animal is critical. Once I bought a cheap soft carrier for my springer for a dog agility trial. When I returned to where her carrier was supposed to be, I found she had rolled it across the room!

  29. As I saw everybody talking about the "take your cat to a vet day." I can't help but wonder what would happen if everybody who has a cat actually did try to take their cat in on the same day ;-)

    1. Even though the veterinarians would be surprised, it would be wonderful!

  30. I am seriously considering moving to another vet. Ours has too many dogs and nowhere safe for the cat to be even in the stroller.

    Great tips, and I love the pictures of the girls!

  31. I just love those pods! I wonder if I could get our "adopted" feral into one! (probably not, he is very skittish). But I sure do like those. Think they have one in Husky size?! So many of these tips are great for dogs as well!

  32. I currently use a cardboard box so this would be extremely useful.

  33. Oh I would totally luv one of thoes red Sleepypods. Maybe I'll win one next time. That was sure a grr-eat post, Miss Paula. One thing Mom tries to remember before loading me in the car, is to make sure the car radio is turned down low or off. She also makes sure the garage door is in the up position. In that way, I won't be startled by the noise of blaring music radio or the rumbling of the garage door. Winks.

  34. My previous post disappeared (or I didn't follow-through correctly - I'm so non-techie!). But I've always wanted to try a Sleepypod with my crew - gated hard side carriers can be a pain to open and close!
    - SC Amy


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