Six secrets to keeping cats calm during veterinary visits
Andrews McMeel Syndication
For far too many feline pet parents, taking a cat to the veterinarian can resemble an MMA fight with various parties -- cat, carer, veterinary nurse and veterinarian -- being in the fight. This is a battle nobody looks forward to, everyone avoids if possible and where one or more participants can really get hurt.
Here’s why and -- better -- how to prevent it.
Cats are taken against their will for health care. They have no idea that there’s a benefit to a stranger staring into their eyes with a light, prying open their mouths, manipulating their limbs, giving vaccinations, examining wounds or performing blood draws or radiographs.
They can’t anticipate or expect the relief of fear, anxiety and stress (FAS) or pain, even if it’s only moments away. They don’t have the concept of a 30-minute visit, 15-minute exam or mere seconds for a vaccination or blood draw.
They can’t flee the threat. Not only can they not escape from the exam room, they are often harshly restrained. Imagine being scared and having someone hold you tightly.
They are taken back repeatedly to the place where they previously felt threatened or harmed.
For comparison, let’s say you’re scared of having cavities filled at the dentist, but someone forces you to go to an office on vacation. Once in the chair, the dentist speaks a foreign language and you don’t understand what’s going to happen or how it’s going to benefit you. Furthermore, you don’t know if you’re going to be in the chair for 30 minutes or three hours. You try to leave, but you find yourself strapped into the chair. Worst of all, every time you visit this country, they take you back to the same dentist office for more procedures.
Fortunately, there is a movement in the veterinary profession to make visits pleasant for the client, the veterinary staff and most important, the cat. At practices that have embraced the principles of Fear Free Pets or Cat Friendly handling techniques, 85% of feline patients that aren’t sick or injured will take a treat. Why? Three reasons:
1) Clients are told to bring cat(s) in hungry so they respond better to food rewards.
2) From the living room to the exam room, FAS levels are kept very low.
3) The treats are tasty and tempting, with more choices than a feline Golden Corral. When I practice, I offer an assortment of the following: tuna, warm deli chicken and turkey, freeze-dried chicken, baby shrimp, turkey baby food, whipped cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, Easy Cheese Cheddar ‘n Bacon, bonito fish flakes and tastiest of all, Churu paste.
If the cat refuses treats or remains fearful during the vet visit, we make a note of this in the cat’s emotional medical record, and for the next visit, we’ll do something different, including one or more of the following:
4) Special day/time. Many practices now have special times set aside for cat visits, with the most anxious cats being the first or last patients of the day.
5) Compression garments. You may have heard of Thundershirts for dogs, but did you know they also work quite well with many cats? If you wonder how compression works to calm, think of swaddling a baby or the kind of hugs you get when you’re grieving.
6) Previsit pharmaceuticals. Veterinarians now have a wide range of products to calm pets, including a particular CBD product that has undergone clinical trials at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine (ask your veterinarian), drugs like gabapentin used off-label and some FDA-approved drugs.
If you choose the right veterinary practice, you can throw away the heavy leather gloves, have a pleasant veterinary visit and come home with nary a scratch.
No easy cure for
Q: Is there anything I can do to keep my bird from pulling out his own feathers? Specifically, is this a dietary problem?
A: Feather-picking is a symptom of something else that's wrong with your bird. One or more of the following can be at the root of the issue:
-- Health problems. Medical conditions behind feather-picking include allergies, parasitic infections, bacterial infections, abnormal growths (cysts) in the feather follicle, internal health problems, vitamin deficiencies and hormone-associated problems, to name a few. Low humidity can also be a factor.
-- Boredom, pent-up energy and psychological problems. Birds are active and intelligent, and they don't handle the stress of being forced to sit around in a cage all day very well. Without things to play with and stuff to destroy, and without being able to get out of the cage and exercise, birds may direct all their energy toward self-mutilation. Obsessive disorders can also trigger feather-picking, as can attention-seeking.
Find a veterinarian with experience in caring for birds as soon as the problem appears. Medical problems must be ruled out or addressed before looking at behavioral strategies.
After any medical issues are resolved, begin writing down changes to your bird’s environment and any effects they may have on his behavior. For example, a daily misting with a spray bottle and the addition of a room humidifier may help, as might different toys, a larger cage, a new cage location, keeping a radio playing during the day, covering the cage to ensure your bird gets 12 solid hours of sleep, and more interaction and play with you.
Some birds will never stop plucking. The best you can do is to remain patient, work with an avian veterinarian toward fixing the problems and love your bird no matter what he looks like. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Top dog and cat
-- The No. 1 problem for dogs insured by Nationwide is skin allergies. Other commonly seen problems are ear infections, diarrhea and intestinal upset, vomiting and upset stomach, skin infections, inflammation or infection of anal glands, arthritis, noncancerous skin masses, bladder infections and dental disease. For cats, the top 10 problems are kidney disease, bladder or urinary tract disease, vomiting or upset stomach, diarrhea or intestinal upset, hyperthyroidism, dental disease, diabetes, skin allergies, upper respiratory infection and ear infection.
-- Best Friends Animal Society shares six things every pet owner should know about heartworm disease: 1. The most common signs of heartworms in dogs are coughing, exercise intolerance, collapsing or fainting episodes, decreased appetite and weight loss. 2. In cats, presence of heartworms may be suggested by an asthmalike cough. 3. Dogs who take heartworm preventive should be tested for heartworms annually. 4. Animals who may have been infected with heartworms and are not taking preventive should be tested immediately and then again six months later in case of delayed onset. 5. Heartworm preventives are available as monthly injectable, topical or chewable products -- your veterinarian can help you decide which is the best choice for your dog. 6. Heartworm cannot be transmitted between pets.
-- One of the ways researchers help to protect cheetahs and African wild dogs is by collecting and analyzing their scat. That’s right -- poop patrol is important, and it wouldn’t be successful without detection dogs to find it. Enya, employed by Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, is trained to detect both cheetah and African wild dog scat. Researchers analyze it to see if the predators’ diets consist more of wild prey or of livestock. They can even identify the individual animal it’s from using DNA. Enya, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, starts work before dawn, rests during the heat of the day, then works some more after sunset. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.