Making Veterinary Visits Less Stressful For Cats, Part 3 Returning Home

In Part 1 of the series, “Making Veterinary Visits Less Stressful For Cats”, we discussed how to acclimate cats to a carrier. Part 2 covered what to do and not to do during the visit to the veterinary hospital. The final blog on this topic will discuss what to do once the cat is home. In my experience, few people think about this until it is too late. Here are my suggestions for home care after a veterinary visit.

1) Leave the cat in the carrier for 20 minutes. In my experience, the biggest mistake people make after veterinary visits, is to immediately release the cat from the carrier. The freaked out cat streaks from the carrier and hides for several hours. Worse yet, it may associate one of its family members with the visit and avoid or attack them. To prevent this, place the carrier on a table, chair or bed in a quiet room. Turn off the lights and close the blinds to make the room as dark as possible. Leave them alone for 20 to 30 minutes. After they have calmed down, return with a treat or toy. Open the door and then immediately reward them with the treat. If the cat is in the mood for affection, rub their face and let them sit on your lap. If they have pent up energy, get out a toy and play until they burn it off.
2) Confine the cat to a room with a litter box and water. While at the veterinary hospital, the cat picked up scents that other animals can smell. This can lead to fights when the cat mingles with other household cats. To prevent this, I recommend keeping the cat who visited the hospital separate from the others until the scent has worn off. If that is not possible, you may bathe the cat to remove the scent or apply perfume to all the cats in the household so that everyone smells the same.   
3) Re-acclimate the cat to the carrier. After a veterinary visit, it is important to re-acclimate the cat to the carrier to erase the bad memories. Leave the carrier out for the cat to observe. After a few days, follow the steps outlined in Part 1. In my experience, most cats will only need a few refresher lessons before they willingly enter the carrier again.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.