Teaching Cats to Enjoy the Vet Visit


Cats don’t typically wake up in the morning saying, “I can’t wait to go to the veterinarian!”

Adult cats are territorial animals and taking them out of their territory only arouses a feeling of discomfort.  Cats are also control freaks by nature, and when not given any control or any choice about what’s going to happen next, they tend to be fearful.

However, if a young cat becomes accustomed to visiting a veterinary clinic and the association is a predictably positive one, the investment will likely pay off later in life.  This can be done in two ways for pet owners who happen to get their cats as kittens between the ages of eight to 16 weeks.

Kitten Class:

A formalized class where kitten parents are taught everything from enrichment needs to required veterinary vaccines. Two classes, each typically an hour long, or one 90-minute class are the norm. As a part of the class, the instructor (which may be a certified, licensed or registered technician/nurse), offers the kitten a mock exam and simultaneously pretend treats to enhance the experience. Also, the instructor notes that you can train cats and explains why this may be important. Before the class, instructions are given to positively associate the kitten with the carrier and a car ride.

Happy Kitten Visits:

This is a less formal way of associating a kitten positively to a veterinary practice. As with the kitten class, instructions are offered first to carrier train and positively associate the kitten with a car ride. An appointment is made to visit an exam room for just 10 minutes. A certified, licensed or registered technician/nurse offers a mock exam while simultaneously offering treats and answering any questions the kitten owner may have.

Carrier to Car to Exam Room

If the experience, from walking into a carrier to the car ride to the vet clinic is positive, and the visit itself is positive – the hope is that the kitten is well positioned for friendly visits throughout a lifetime. At the very least the cat owner shouldn’t be chasing a terrorized cat around the house, stuffing the kitty into a carrier, hearing the cat scream all the way to the veterinary clinic and then seeing the result of sheer terror ramped up further once arriving at the veterinary clinic. These cats have often been called fractious; it’s been suggested by many experts that they are experiencing a panic attack. Obviously, this doesn’t lead to a positive experience for anyone involved.

Older cats can similarly be “trained” to better accept a trip to the veterinarian, even if the cat previously suffered panic attacks. However, it takes a cat owner willing to put in the work. Cats can’t learn while they are panicked, so it’s likely the assistance of a pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and/or pheromone, as well as behavior modification will be required in order to ramp down the terror.

Today, there are many qualified professionals available to help cats adjust their attitudes about veterinary visits.

Maintaining comfortable veterinary visits throughout the lifetime of the cat, means veterinarians should offer amazing cat treats and provide more cat-comfortable care. One example is Nobivac’s feline vaccines that offer multi-year protection and combo options that require fewer trips to the veterinarian and fewer injections overall. Also, Nobivac’s feline leukemia vaccine is the only USDA approved feline vaccine with a proven two-year duration of immunity. That means cats stay protected for longer periods between trips to the veterinarian.

Historically, cats have been under-medicalized. And while this is changing, and cats are indeed living longer than ever before; they absolutely do benefit by twice annual veterinary visits. Cat owners are more likely to visit the veterinarian if – for starters – they can get their cat into a carrier without a struggle. And they feel better about the experience as their cat feels better about the experience. Today’s cat parents care about the emotional well-being of their pets as much as their physical well-being which is why so many veterinarians are working to offer so many more ways to make these veterinary visits as comfortable for patient (and pet parent) as possible.