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No More “Scaredy Cats” at the Vet! Fear Free Veterinary Visits Part 2: Cats!

Author: Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM

Hi!  Welcome to part 2 of helping to get your furry family member to the vet with the least amount of stress for all involved. We discussed our canine companions last month (be sure to check it out if you missed it on our blog, but as we all know, cats are an entirely different story!
Our feisty feline friends not only are less accustomed to being handled, but when was the last time Fluffy left the house? The experience of being shoved into a box, put into a moving vehicle, and then brought to the vet with all of the new smells and sounds can be very disorienting for cats, so here at Calvert Veterinary Center we are working to make it a more enjoyable visit for them. From the very start of getting your cat in to the carrier, to the exam, and all the way home, read below how to help make the visit less stressful for your cat and yourself, and hopefully prevent you from sporting a few love scratches the next day!
1) The dreaded carrier- along with baths, it is  the arch nemesis of cats everywhere. This doesn’t have to be a scary thing, but often cats associate the carrier with being taken to the vet or other undesirable locations. This starts ramping up their anxiety from the beginning. If possible, we recommend leaving the carrier out all the time, and putting soft bedding and treats in it so Fluffy learns that it is a safe, inviting environment and doesn’t go running under the couch when they see it. If leaving it out all the time isn’t possible, try just bringing it out and offering their favorite cat nip or treats in ide of it for the week leading up to their visit.

2) The car ride. Does your cat meow the whole time they are in the car, or worse, vomit in their carrier? This could be motion sickness (yes – animals get that too!) or car anxiety, and there are several medications we can use to help ease the nausea or nerves plaguing their car ride. Let your veterinarian know ahead of time and they can talk to you about these options. Eating before car rides can make it worse, so hold off on feeding cats for a few hours prior to the drive.

3) Food and Pheromones. Did we mention keeping Garfield hungry? This not only can help with the car ride (see above) it helps with the exam! Hunger keeps them food motivated while they are here, and we are armed with all the yummy treats we can stock our shelves with to help offer them some comfort food while they are here. We also have a room dedicated to cats (no dogs allowed!) with a special pheromone diffuser to evoke a calming presence in the room and prevent stress.

4) Sedation. When all of our well intentioned methods still can’t calm down your fearful feline, we can offer oral or injectable sedatives to help calm them down. Often oral sedatives given 2 hours before the visit can make the exam and car ride a calmer experience, allowing for more thorough examinations, assessment, and care. If oral medications aren’t possible, we can sedate them while they are here,  examine your cat, draw blood, and perform any treatments needed, then reverse the sedative to wake them up before sending them home with you to rest.

For other ways to help your pet have a happy vet visit, please visit our website or call us! We are happy to discuss your concerns and brainstorm other ways for making your cat’s visit more enjoyable. We are available at, or by phone at 410-360-7297.


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