If you were to conjure up an image of what it’s like to take your cat to the vet, what you would think of? If you said a horror film, you’d be in good company. When cat owners in a recent veterinary use study were asked to create collages depicting how they felt when taking their cats to the vet, most incorporated pictures depicting stress, including images from horror films!
We at Unity Animal Hospital know that a veterinary visit can stress any pet. So we’d like to share some tips on how to make your pets’ visits to us less stressful.
Most cats and some dogs only experience a carrier, a car, or a visit to the vet when they are sick. One way to make these associations less negative is to connect them with positive or neutral experiences. Consider getting your pets familiar with the carrier, car, and vet office when they are not sick or about to be examined. Put the carrier out well in advance of your visit, and place treats in the carrier. Include a soft towel to make it more comfortable or a piece of your clothing to give their carrier a familiar and comforting scent. You can also just take your pet for a spin in the car (or just explore it without going anywhere) and finish the trip with a treat. You can do the same with a visit to the vet office. Just come to say hi or get a weight check. We’re happy to allay Fluffy’s or Fido’s fears with a friendly visit to Unity and a reinforcing (and healthy) snack.
Considering skipping the carrier since it seems to stress Fluffy? Don’t! For your pets’ safety and the safety and comfort of the other pets, please always appropriately restrain your pets in a carrier (not an open box) or with a leash. An unrestrained pet is more stressed (and more stressful) than a properly restrained pet.
One key to managing pet fear is regularly scheduled well visits. While a well visit can have some stress for your pet, well exams are less stressful than sick care. And, of course, regular well care can reduce your pets’ need for a sick visit.
Once you and your pet arrive at Unity, we want to make your visit as comfortable and stress-free as possible. We designed our space to reduce pet stress. Our long main reception area is intended to keep stressed animals spaced wide apart with cats typically near the rest room (north side) and dogs waiting near the exam rooms (south side). If that’s not enough of a buffer, consider our auxiliary reception area (where you will find our wonderful Artists for Unity Animals gallery), our courtyard, or you can ask to wait with your pet in one of our exam rooms. If your pet is skittish, we encourage you to sit with him away from the front door since we can’t always predict who is about to enter. Even with these options, if your pet is in a carrier, he may prefer to have a cover over it to reduce visual stressors.
Once in an exam room with the door closed, feel free to let your pets roam if they are more comfortable that way. Or course, keep an eye on the door! Our team is happy to examine your pets on the floor if that makes them more comfortable. The entire Unity team is trained to handle and care for your pet using low-stress techniques. And if your pet stays with us for observation, we have several cage banks to allow separation if your pet seems to prefer it.
We hope these tips help you to reduce your pets’ stress. We also hope they allay some of your stress, because our pets are very attuned to our moods. The more relaxed that we can be before and during a visit to the vet, the easier it is on our fur babies.