This weekend I brought my own animals into Uptown Vets to update their vaccines. I had the humbling experience of being the client for once, and want to let all of you know that you are not alone! Getting your pets to the vet for an annual exam is not the easiest NYC adventure, no matter how important it is.
As I sat in the car, petting my cat in the carrier, hoping to calm him and stop the crying, I flashed through advice I give clients and that I should have listened to myself. So — here are the tips I should have followed, and that you can use for your next visit:
(1) Make the carrier part of normal life for your cat — just like crate training a dog, you can carrier train your cat. Keep it out in the apartment and make it an inviting spot for your cat — put toys, treats, and a small comfy blanket in it. Your cat can get used to it as a normal cat-friendly item instead of a smells-like-the-creepy-storage-unit-and-looks-like-a-torture-chamber box.
(2) Help your cat relax in the carrier — two tricks that can make a BIG difference:
- Catnip — if your cat likes catnip (some cats get amped up and kind of crazy with it — these cats probably shouldn’t have catnip for travel!), sprinkle some in the carrier before putting your cat inside. Bring some extra for the trip, and ask for more at our office (we have TUBS of the stuff in our feline exam rooms) if needed.
- Feliway — this synthetic pheromone will help your cat feel at home in the carrier, even with other smells around. It comes in handy aerosol sprays that you can apply to the inside of the carrier or a blanket you place inside; spray it 10-15 minutes before your put your cat inside to allow any solvents to evaporate (you can purchase these canisters easily at our office or online).
(3) Take short excursions with your cat — imagine if you lived in a one bedroom apartment for your whole life, and then once a year you were swept into a bag and taken through the loud, smelly streets of NYC, possibly even into a loud, swaying train car, and exposed to extreme heat or cold, then put on a weird metal table and poked. You would freak out when put in that bag each year. Once your cat is used to the carrier (see tip #1), start taking mini-trips with him. Initially it might just be into the hall and back, then to the front door of your building and back, slowly building up to a walk around the block. Make it a positive experience by slowly building up the level of adventure, and providing lots of treats, and maybe play time with a favorite toy at the end.
(4) Your cat might need medication to help! — if you’ve tried the three things above for a few weeks and your cat is still freaking out for a visit to the vet, it might be worth talking to us about medications. There are three things we might be able to do:
- Anti-nausea medication — lots of cats get motion sick in carriers and vehicles, and anxiety itself can cause nausea. Feeling sea-sick never made an experience more fun.
- Calming supplements — Zylkene is a calming supplement developed for cats that tastes good, and can be mixed into their food. We can give you specific directions on the safe doses to administer and how to time them for maximum effect.
- Anti-anxiety medications — some cats will ultimately benefit from a dose of a prescription anti-anxiety drug. These are reserved for extreme situations, but may well be worth discussing with us if you have tried all the above and your cat is still panicking.
- (Please note that we can only prescribe medications for pets we have seen for a full exam within the last 365 days. If your cat is overdue for an annual exam, we will need to see your pet before providing any of the above.)
If you have concerns about your cat’s travel needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (212)222-1221.
Uptown Vets – 295 West 112th St, New York, NY
(212) 222-1221 – firstname.lastname@example.org