Tips for Safe, Stress-Free Trips to the Veterinarian:
- Preparation for safe and low stress pet transport by setting up the vehicle is often overlooked. Consider sound input in your vehicle, ideally the sounds should be calm or familiar music, quiet, or silence. Pets should be safely restrained to ensure the safety of the pet and the client. Unrestrained pets can cause auto accidents, get lost in the event of an auto accident, be thrown during sudden stops, or slip on the seat and become stressed. Secure smaller pets in a carrier or crate behind the passenger seat to ensure the pet and owner’s safety. For larger dogs, we recommend a harness that has been test and proven to be crash resistant and be sure to become familiar with exactly how to use it. For large dogs in crates that cannot fit behind the passenger seat, be sure to secure the crate so it will not move in the event of an accident or a sudden stop.
- Most pets will return home without incident from their visit to the veterinary hospital. Still, if the condition of the patient or known interactions between pets at home may cause a problem, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or the staff prior to reintroduction. Some pets may need to be isolated upon their return. These would include pets that are too ill to interact, patients with unusual bandages or splints, and those who have been anesthetized or are unable to move freely.
The first step to fear free transport of cats to the veterinary hospital usually starts long before the day of the appointment.
- Choose an appropriate carrier – soft or hard carriers can be used. Be sure that the crate is large enough that your cat can lie down and move around, but not so large that your cat won’t feel safe and secure in it. Try to find a carrier with at least two openings and can easily be taken apart both for use as a bed in the home and if necessary, during examinations at the veterinarian.
- Attract your cat to use the carrier – If you have a kitten, encourage your kitten to use the carrier as a bed. For an adult cat, leave the carrier out all of the time in an area that the cat already likes to rest. It helps to elevate the carrier off of the floor and remove the lid. Place comfortable bedding in the base of the carrier. Additional ways to attract your cat to use the carrier are to place toys, catnip, your cat’s favorite things in and around the carrier. You can also feed your cat near the carrier or use a pheromone spray (such as Feliway or Comfort Zone) on the carrier and the associated bedding. It may take awhile for your cat to become comfortable with the carrier.
- On the Day of the Appointment – Try not to pull your cat out of its hiding place and put it in the carrier. Try to attract your pet to the carrier with treats, etc. Be sure to hold the carrier firmly with both hands at the bottom, do not use the handle on top of the carrier. It will cause excess motion that will be upsetting for your pet as well as put your cat at dog’s eye level upon entering the hospital.
- Most cats will return home without incident after their trip to the veterinarian, but some cats will need to be isolated for a little bit before interacting with other cats in the house hold. The unfamiliar smells associated with your cat’s visit can often invite aggression between pets. It helps to have pheromones on hand and delay the reintroduction as long as necessary.