Cat Road Trip: Veterinarian Edition

Does your cat have a vendetta against veterinary visits? Do they hate the car? The busy waiting rooms? The noise, new smells and overstimulation can be overwhelming even for the most cool of cats. It doesn’t have to be that way. Unfortunately, many pet parents incorrectly assume their cats only need to see a veterinarian if they are sick. Stick with us to find out why your cat should be seeing a veterinarian for preventative care, plus some tips for making the visits easier for you, your cat and the veterinarian.

Regular veterinary visits (once per year, or every six months for seniors) are essential to stop certain health problems before they get out of control, or, in some cases, before they even start. Certain health conditions are much easier and less expensive to treat if caught early — not to mention the reduced suffering for your cat. Below, you’ll find six benefits you and your cat will get from staying on top of your regularly scheduled veterinary visits.

1 – Preventing and treating disease: Yup, even your indoor cat is at risk for disease. Regular vaccinations, checkups and bloodwork will help keep them protected.

2 – Reduce and avoid weight issues: Nearly 60% of pet cats are overweight or obese, according the 2018 Association of Pet Obesity Prevention survey. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right diet for your cat, as well as check your cat’s weight and assess their body condition score. Your veterinarian can give you some tips on preventing obesity, or if your cat is already overweight, can help you with a weight loss plan.

3 – Prevent parasites: Internal and external parasites aren’t just gross — they can severely reduce your cat’s quality of life. Your veterinarian can advise you on treatments to prevent fleas, ticks, mites, heartworms and intestinal parasites.

4 – Prevent dental disease: Regular dental care maintains your cat’s oral health, keeping their mouths pain free. Proper oral health in cats can also reduce inflammation in other parts of their bodies.

5 – Correct behaviour problems: Many cats are surrendered to shelters due to issues like improper litter box use. Sadly, many of these issues could be fixed with help from a veterinarian.

6 – Promote longevity: Just like humans, cats are more prone to disease as they age. Regular checkups can help your veterinarian identify these issues early, slowing or even preventing progression.

Hitting the Road

Going to the veterinarian, and everything leading up to it, can be stressful for you and your cat. With the right preparation, you can reduce anxiety for everyone involved.

Before You Leave

To start, transport your cat in a carrier, kennel, crate, or whatever you like to call it. If you have more than one cat, each should have their own, with an opening on the top or front. Using familiar bedding in the carrier and spraying the inside with a facial pheromone product (available from your veterinarian) before you leave can also help your cat feel more at home while travelling to and from their appointments. If possible, let your cat get used to the carrier by leaving it out and open while at home, with treats, toys or food inside. It can also help to confine your cat to one room, or block off typical hiding places a few hours before you leave so you aren’t frantically searching under furniture before you need to leave.

On The Road

While travelling, make sure the carrier is secure, either in the back seat or the passenger side footwell. When you have to carry the carrier, do your best to keep it stable and horizontal. Be aware that if your cat has crammed themselves into one corner of the carrier, the weight will not be evenly balanced when you go to pick it up.

At The Vet

Once you arrive at the vet, you might find that placing a towel over the top of the carrier can help keep your cat calm, and prevent prying eyes from staring at them while in the waiting room. (Looking at you, dogs!) Once in the exam room, you might want to take your cat carrier apart (if possible) so that you cat can remain inside the carrier for the exam, should they feel more comfortable there.

You spend much more time with your cat than your veterinarian does, so they’ll likely be asking you some questions while they assess your cat. These questions give your veterinarian a more complete idea of your cat’s overall health, and your answers will help guide your veterinarian regarding tests that he or she may want to run, or recommendations that he or she will make. It’s a good idea to think about your answers to some of the following questions before you arrive, as well as keeping them in mind throughout the year in case your cat’s behaviour changes.

  • Does your cat go outside or have contact with other animals, or are they boarded or make visits to a groomer?
  • What are you feeding your cat? How much, and how often? Do they graze or get fed in portions? What about treats?
  • Has your cat’s temper or behaviour changed?
  • Does your cat ever urinate or defecate outside their litter box?
  • Has their appetite or weight changed?
  • Has their water intake changed?
  • How is their breath, and do they appear to have trouble chewing?
  • Has their activity level changed? Jumping to furniture less than usual?
  • Are they more vocal than they used to be?

By preparing for your veterinary visit ahead of time, you can make the trip less stressful for everyone involved. Plus, regular visits mean your cat might just get used to the routine as well. Preventative care also means your veterinarian can catch issues before they get out of hand, reducing stress for you and improving your cat’s quality of life.

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