I recently had the pleasure of attending the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Conference. As a practice manager, I was excited to be attending a conference that was animal focused since most of my continuing education centers on management and information technology. As a crazy cat lady, I was in my glory attending 3 days of sessions on feline behavior. It was fascinating learning how much we can discern from the behavior of our kitty family members. Unfortunately, it is this behavior that prevents many owners from taking their pet cats for an annual physical exam.
One of the important facts that was reiterated in almost every session is that cats are both predator and prey. Why is this so important? When your pet cat leaves its comfort zone, finds something new has entered its comfort zone, or is trapped with no escape route, her instincts kick in telling her she must be cautious or she may be eaten. While this seems silly to us on first hearing, this is the prey side of your pet cat.
Cats prefer to remove themselves from what they perceive as a threat. When faced with a predator that wants to eat them (or something they think may be a predator that wants to eat them), their first choice is to flee. When they are blocked, or trapped, from running away, they can freeze and hope the predator goes away without noticing them or they can fight.
What does this mean to us as cat owners? If I were a cat and someone stuck me in a crate, shoved it into a car, then pulled me out when we reached a strange place to be handled by a strange person, I would be very worried about my future. Not just in general, but if I had a future. I would be feeling like the prey of whatever or whoever was handling me. No wonder our felines are scared when they come to the vet!
When you consider their plight as prey, you realize they have to be masters at hiding illness, wounds, or other weaknesses. Our indoor only cats may be many generations removed from their wild ancestors, but nature has made very few and minimal changes. They still have the same drive for survival and are still convinced they may not survive when a threat is perceived.
All cats should have a complete physical at least once a year to help in detecting a problem your feline may be trying to hide. Few cats receive an annual physical. As a cat owner, what can you do to help change the statistics? Make sure your cats sees a veterinarian at least once a year. Of course, after what I have said here, you may not want to put your cat through the trauma. The ideal is to remove as much trauma from the trip as possible. That can be done in a few steps.
First, acclimate your cat to its carrier. Your veterinarian can help you with tips on how to do this. The cat pictured in this post is napping in a soft-sided carrier!
Second, once your cat is willing to go in the carrier make an appointment.
Third is getting there. Carry your cat's carrier like it holds the most precious gift there is. You wouldn't want to be jostled around in a box, so why should your cat be treated that way?
Once you reach your veterinarian's office, do not put the carrier on the floor for all the dogs to sniff. Instead, there should be a counter or small table to set the carrier on. Or even better, there may be a separate section in the waiting area for cats or you may be escorted to an exam room where your precious gift does not have to deal with whoever or whatever else may be in the waiting room.
All during this process, remain calm. Your cat is very good at picking up on your vibes, and if you are nervous she will be too.
The team members here treat all pets with respect. We try to be a gentle as possible. Our cat exam room has cat pheromones to help calm, and the lobby has music specially recorded to calm cats and dogs. If a cat is too terrified, we will recommend sedation so that the pet is not subjected to the intense fear.
If your cat has not had a physical in the past year, please make an appointment. We will be happy to give you tips when you call to help your kitty learn to love the carrier.