Tips For Bringing Kitty To The Vet

Traveling With a Stressed Cat

CAT Visits to CVPC and Your Full-Service Veterinarian

Cats make up only about 20% of the patients seen at full-service veterinary practices that focus on household pets.  For those visits, there’s little question that the anxiety level of cats is higher than in dogs.   Cat visits can be unnerving for both cats and cat parents, but they truly don’t have to be.  With some pre-planning and a little effort, you can breathe a little easier and create a far better experience for everyone involved.

* Before Placing Your Kitty in a Carrier *

While it’s safe to say that most cats are unnerved by the veterinary visit, the anxiety isn’t just from the vet visit alone.  Their nervous behavior begins long before reaching the vet’s office (and true for dogs as well).   Fortunately, there are a number of ways we can reduce your kitty’s fears whenever they are forced out of their ‘comfort zone’.

For many cats, simply seeing a cat carrier is enough to set off their internal alarm system.  I often advise that if you know that you will be placing your cat in a vehicle for any reason (vet visit, traveling or moving to a new location, going to be spayed or neutered, going to be bathed or groomed, etc), always set out the cat carrier in a visible place for a few days prior to traveling in order to help de-sensitize your kitty to the presence of the carrier.

Another crucial element that can be extremely helpful is the use of a product called Feliway.  Feliway is a natural cat pheromone that can have a profound calming effect on anxious cats. The product comes as either a spray or a wall plug-in room dispenser.  Just a single pump of Feliway into the carrier each day prior to traveling can make a huge difference in your cat’s traveling behavior.  Learn more from their website: or you can order from Amazon.  Do NOT use any knock-off brands.

* Placing Your Cat in a Carrier *

With some cats, just making the effort to place them into the carrier itself can turn into a rodeo.  Personally, I prefer the use of a plastic carrier held together with snaps (as opposed to screws), or much better, a carrier with a wire door that opens on the top.  Equally convenient, is the use of a nylon or fabric cat bag with a much larger opening.  This will make getting your kitty into the bag, or removing them, far easier and less stressful for them. Really large cats, often have more room in these carriers.

If you are using a plastic cat carrier, I recommend removing the upper portion/lid but leaving the wire door in place.  Then place your kitty into the carrier, and as quickly as possible, place the lid on top.  Get everything lined up, then snap or screw the lid into place.  If you struggle a lot with a plastic carrier, try a nylon or leather, or fabric bag that uses a zipper to open the carrier.

Also, consider using a pillowcase.  Find your kitty in the house and place the pillowcase over your cat.  Then scoop and bundle them up in the pillowcase, but do not tie off the end.  Then ease the pillowcase (with the kitty in it) into the carrier and close the door or zip up the bag.  Done properly, they can then easily wiggle themselves out of the pillowcase once they’re inside the carrier.

If you don’t have Feliway, put a catnip toy into the carrier to add to the calming effect.

Because of their anxiety, some cats will poop or pee in their crate, always place a towel in the bottom of the carrier so they are not sitting in a large pool of their own pee.   If traveling to a vet’s office, make sure to have a towel or cloth cover handy to place over the carrier, as this can also calm your cat. 

* Arriving At Your Vet’s Office *

Depending on weather conditions, you may choose to leave your cat quietly in your car until it’s time to be seen.   Inside our CVPC clinics, we can always create a safe space to keep your kitty away from other dogs.

When we encounter a noticeably nervous or vocal cat, we will spray Feliway onto a single sheet of paper towel or tissue and place it in your kitty’s carrier to provide some relief from being overly anxious.   Always feel free to ask us to apply a squirt of Feliway … or move your kitty to a quieter location.

Some dogs are more inquisitive than others, so if you sit in the vicinity of a dog that your cat is not familiar with, keep your cat away from a curious or annoying canine that may want to come over to check out your kitty.  To be fair, it’s the responsibility of the dog parent to be mindful of where their dog wanders, but not every pet parent will consider how traumatic the presence of a strange dog might be to your cat.  A polite reminder may be needed.

* The Vet Visit *

As you well know, we always strongly encourage pet parents to remain with their pets.  That creates a better experience for dogs than for cats, but we want you to be comfortable with how we handle kitties under these conditions.

We will often offer Churu, a protein gel treat (mostly fish-based), to your kitty to distract them from the experience of vaccines and to reward their calmer behavior, etc.

* Visit A Clinic Set Up Just For Cats*

If you are not already aware, we do offer a CATS ONLY CLINIC once a month at our Kannapolis location.  We plug in Feliway a full 2 days prior to the clinic, allowing it to diffuse into the 2 main rooms that we use.  We understand that a mid-week clinic in Kannapolis may not be convenient for everyone, but we can tell that when kitties come to this clinic, they are definitely more relaxed.

* In Conclusion *

The next time you need to travel with your cats, definitely try some of these techniques to create a more positive, less stressful experience for everyone, especially your kitty.  And let us know if you have any other tips or tricks that work for you and your cat.

- Dr. Bob Parrish    |   Carolina Value Pet Care