A Cat Clinic

Ways to Reduce Stress in Cats: Make it Fear-Free

Posted on: September 30th, 2014 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

“Make it Fear-Free”– this was the title of a recent article in a veterinary magazine, and a focus for veterinarian, author and speaker Marty Becker, DVM. In veterinary school, we are trained to focus on the physical well-being of our patients. We now realize that addressing their emotional well-being (read “fear” and how to address that) is equally important. I realized that as a feline veterinary practitioner, this formalizes what we’ve been doing for years.

Some of the ways to reduce stress in cats addressed in his article:

-Discussing carrier training with clients so that bringing a cat to the veterinary hospital doesn’t upset both the owner and the cat. See the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ brochure “Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian” for more information.

-If cat shows signs of nausea or motion-sickness, address ways to prevent this prior to any future visits. (We have found prescription medication Cerenia to be very helpful. Dramaine ® or Benadryl ® are over-the-counter and can be helpful; *please ask your veterinarian, since dose varies with weight and these medications should not be used in some cats).

– Use Feliway (calming pheromones) in the veterinary hospital.

-Asking clients to feed less that day so cats will more readily accept treats. This helps distract cats during the exam.

-Quiet clinic environment, using soft voices. No sudden moves that will startle the cat.

-Setting carriers on the floor so cat can explore. (Some cats will leave their carrier on their own, some will not). This gives cats time to acclimate to the exam room.

-Recommending carriers that can be taken apart. This prevents veterinary hospital staff from reaching in to pull out the cat or worse, “dumping” the cat out, depriving the cat of any control of its environment. Also, some cats feel safer and can be examined in the bottom half of the carrier with just a towel to cover them.

-For extremely anxious cats, recommending anti-anxiety medication and if this is still not sufficient, recommending sedation (when appropriate) for exam.

Our view is that there are no “bad” cats, but there are many who are frightened. Those of us who focus on caring for cats know that a less-traumatic experience benefits all of us (owner to hospital staff, and especially the cat!)