Does going to the vet stress your kitty out?  Do regular checkups turn into a nightmare for both you and your furry feline friend?  Do vet visits go so badly that your cat needs to be sedated to have the even most routine exams performed?  Do you put off medical work because it’s just too hard to bring your cat to the vet?

 Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to make trips to the veterinarian a less stressful experience for your kitty.  He or she may never enjoy going to the vet (who would?), but following some simple steps can make it a lot easier for your cat to get the medical care he or she requires.

Reducing your cat’s stress level starts even before the day of the exam.  Taking your cat to the vet for non-medical visits is a good way to show that such trips don’t have to be scary.  Going to the vet and getting a treat instead of an exam will help keep your pet from only associating the vet with negative experiences.

On the day of your cat’s appointment, I would recommend making the cat carrier as comfortable and reassuring as possible before putting your kitty in it.  For example, you might want to line it with some of your clothing, so that your feline friend is surrounded by familiar smells and feels.  Covering the carrier with a towel will also cut down on unfamiliar visual stimuli, such as your car or other cats in the vet’s waiting room, that can get your baby riled up. Rubbing Feliway on the inside of the carrier is another way of making your cat feel calmer.

The next step is to prepare the exam room for your pet’s arrival.  Try to create as quiet and soothing an environment as possible.  Reduce the lighting if you can.  Turn off any ceiling fans, as many cats find those scary.  Placing big, fluffy towels or blankets in the area where your kitty will be examined will also help make him or her more comfortable during the exam.  Some vets make these available to their patients.  If yours doesn’t, make sure to bring some from home.

Once your cat comes into the exam room, try to eliminate any loud or jarring noises that could startle your baby.  Talk to your cat in a low, soft voice.  If your kitty doesn’t like being in the carrier, feel free to let him or her out to explore the room.  Don’t worry if your cat gets on a chair or jumps down onto the floor.  Your vet should be able to conduct the exam in either of those places.  Conversely, if your little one prefers to stay in the carrier, the vet may be able to do some procedures, such as vaccinations, without getting him or her out of the bag.

These measures should make the exams less stressful for your kitty, but there are some other things that you and your vet can do during the procedures to help keep things calm.  Having lots of towels on hand is advisable.  Many cats find it comforting to have a place to hide, so covering their heads with a towel during the exam can reduce stress.  In addition, your veterinarian and/or the vet tech assisting in the exam can use rewards to give your kitty something to look forward to.  Treats, wet food, and catnip can turn a negative situation into a positive one, and keep your cat’s mood from souring.

No matter what, avoid doing anything to aggravate your kitty during the exam.  Even if he or she gets angry or lashes out at your or the vet, make sure that you don’t yell or scold your cat.  Remain as calm as possible, and your kitty will be less likely to freak out.

I hope these suggestions help you make vet visits a less stressful experience for your and your beloved cats.  I would encourage you to discuss them and any other ideas you might have with your vet and their staff.  As a veterinarian, I can tell you that I’m more than happy to work with my patients to create as comfortable an environment as I can for their kitties.