The ominous hissing, the mournful meows, the defensive scratching and biting, the upset bowels—feline stress is unpleasant for cats, clients, and you. Many cats get stressed when it’s time for a veterinary visit, and cat owners may choose to avoid this stress by avoiding your clinic altogether. But there are ways to decrease cats’ stress and keep them coming to your clinic.
1. Talk up the joys of carriers—seriously
First, ensure cat owners use carriers. “It is important that clients put their cats in carriers on the way to and from the veterinary clinic,” says Stephanie Belanger, a veterinary technician at KC Cat Clinic in Kansas City, Mo. “When clients carry cats in their hands, more than likely, they won’t be able to hold on to the cat if it tries to get away.” Pets loose in the car also face the risk of more severe injury if there’s an accident.
2. Use carriers in the exam room
When you’re talking to cat owners, suggest they use a hard-plastic carrier with a removable top. By simply undoing the screws or latches that hold the carrier together, people can lift off the top. Why does this matter? First, if cats prefer to stay in their carriers, removable-top versions allow you to oblige. By taking off the top, you and the veterinarian can work with a feline patient while it stays in the bottom of the carrier. “The cat feels safer and less anxious, so it will be easier to handle versus being out on the exam table where it usually tries to get away from you.”
If you need to remove a cat from its carrier for some reason, do not pull on the cat or tip up the carrier to dump out the cat. Doing so only increases the patient's stress levels and could be off-putting to clients who feel like their cats are being manhandled. Instead, give the cat time and try to coax it out with treats, affectionate words, or both.
3. Help clients create a cat-carrier love affair
Removable-top carriers also help clients. “Getting the cat into the carrier is usually what deters people from using them,” Belanger says. “Cats associate their carriers with veterinary visits, so they will be stressed as soon as the owner pulls out the carrier.” Clients can use the same technique to get their cats in that you use to get their cats out: Removing the top. “Place the cat inside the bottom of the carrier and then place the top back on,” Belanger says. “This is much less stressful.”
In a stress-free world, cats would walk right into their carriers, removable top or not. For a handout detailing how clients can create this ideal situation, click here. By following the tips, cats will come to see their carriers as safe, even enjoyable places. And when cats are happy, everybody’s happy.