Does your cat do any of the following when traveling or outside of their usual environment?
- Meowing, howling, or crying
- Digging at the door or sides of the carrier
- Sitting curled into a small ball at the back of the carrier
- Hissing and swatting
- Attempting to bite when approached or handled
- Struggling and fighting when handled
- Urinating and/or defecating
- Straining to urinate or defecate but nothing comes out
- Excessive shedding
- Vomiting or drooling
These are signs of cat anxiety and can seriously limit the veterinary care your cat receives.
Our goal is for every cat to have a safe, pleasant, stress-free experience at the cat hospital. Some cats are more anxious than others and need some extra help relaxing. These are options to reduce anxiety in our patients. All items in BOLD are available at Lexington Hospital for Cats.
- Start the veterinary visit a week out. Get the carrier out of storage, clean it with dish detergent to remove any fear pheromone residue from previous use, and put the carrier in a prominent spot in the home. Feed meals and favorite treats near or in the carrier daily until the cat is calm and relaxed when in the carrier.
- Feliway wipes or travel spray and ThunderSpray – both products contain synthetic feline facial pheromones that are calming to many cats. Spray or wipe the carrier and allow the alcohol to evaporate before placing your cat into the carrier.
- On the day of the visit, feed a smaller breakfast and deny access to food once the cat is finished eating in the morning. Being a little hungry will help her respond better to food rewards once at the cat hospital. Place a few treats in the carrier to help coax her into the carrier. High value treats should be used. These are treats that she loves but only gets for special occasions such as vet visits. Once the cat is in the carrier, cover the carrier with a towel or sheet to reduce visual stimulation and to help the cat feel safe.
- When traveling, do not baby-talk the cat. Do play classical music or music she is likely to hear at home. Pre-heat or cool the car to the same temperature as the home. Place the carrier on the car floor or level on the sat covered with a towel or sheet. Secure the carrier with a seat belt, if possible.
- Once at Lexington Hospital for Cats, every effort will be made to get you directly into an exam room to allow your cat to acclimate to being here. On the rare occasion that you may have an extended wait not in an exam room, we recommend that you wait in the car with your pet after checking in with us. We will come out to let you know when an exam room is available.
Other options for calming
TIP: These must be used before the cat becomes stressed or anxious and therefore are best given or applied at home before the visit.
Composure treats – This is a natural food supplement that is known for relieving cat anxiety. It is available at LHFC, has no known side effects, is very safe, but may not relax your cat enough to allow for a complete examination. Composure treats are given one a day for 2-3 days before the visit. Then give 2-3 treats 1 hour before traveling to the vet’s office on the day of the visit to improve the chances of calming your cat.
Zylkene supplement – This is a natural, non-sedating nutritional supplement that reduces the signs of stress and is prescribed based on the cat’s weight. The capsule can be opened and powder mixed into a small meal of canned or dry food and fed on the day of the vet visit. We typically recommend giving Zylkene once a day for 2-3 days before the visit and then doubling the dose on the day of the vet visit to improve the calming effect.
ThunderShirts – The ThunderShirt applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant. The pressure has a calming effect in some cats. The shirts come in sizes based on the weight of your cat. They have a patch where ThunderSpray can be applied to increase the calming effect of the shirt. We have shirts at LHFC to use once the cat is at the office, but the shirts work best if applied at home before the cat goes into the carrier.
If acclimating your cat to a carrier and trying the other recommendations for calming is not effective or your cat has a history of anxiety when going to the vet’s office, sedation is recommended to insure that your cat gets the stress-free medical care that it needs.
We are currently offering Gabapentin capsules as a solution to anxiety in cats who historically have been anxious or aggressive at veterinary visits, difficult to get into their carriers, or who exhibit stress behavior once in the carrier. There are no contra-indications for using this medication in cats. Cats that are old, young, sick, or well can take this medication. The capsules are either given by mouth or opened and fed with the powder from the capsule mixed into 1-2 tablespoons of strong tasting canned food or tuna 2-3 hours before the vet visits. It can be given to cats who are being dropped off for anesthetic procedures because the amount of food fed with the medication is so small. The amount given depends on how relaxed the cat becomes after taking the medication. Cats can take this medication daily, if needed, and therefore is very safe to use as needed especially for cats who need to return for sequential recheck visits.
If aroused, cats who are on Gabapentin can overcome the sedation effect of the medication. We can safely supplement the sedation with other injectable sedatives once the cat is at the office.
NEVER CHASE YOUR CAT AROUND THE HOUSE, CATCH IT, PUT IT INTO ITS CARRIER, AND BRING IT TO THE OFFICE IN A HYSTERICAL STATE. THIS MAY CAUSE YOUR CAT TO THROW A BLOOD CLOT THAT COULD BE LIFE-THREATENING.
If you are having trouble getting your cat calmly into the carrier after doing everything that we have suggested, call, reschedule your appointment as ask for advice. We will develop a strategy with you to insure your cat gets the veterinary care that it needs with minimal stress.