How to have a successful first-time visit to the Vet with your cat.
Put yourself in their shoes
For too many kitties a visit to the vet can feel just like an alien abduction.
Cats are creatures of habit-- thriving in a predictable, stable routine. For a cat, vet days are extraordinary. On a seemingly normal day like any other-- everything your cat understands and knows turns upside down. They are whisked away by an alien space ship to be probed by aliens who look just like their human.
Stuffed into the dreaded plastic consoles ( stowed away the rest of the year) which immediately set off emergency alarms. How many cats run away and hide under the bed just as soon as the closet door holding their dreaded pet carrier is opened, every few years? Some freeze in a state of learned helplessness and others react by becoming too aggressive to handle.
Recognizing these responses for what they are--fear and stress, will help us to work on making their visits fear-free.
Get the kind whose top is easy to unlatch. Leave it out with the door open or take it off altogether, and leave it where she likes to hang out. Put in stuff with smells of you--If your kitten loves your socks, put them in the carrier. If she likes to sleep on top of your head, put that pillow or the pillow case in her carrier instead of the laundry. Spritz some kitty pheromone. Throw her favorite toys in it and some tasty treats.
Do not lock her in--let her go in and out at will. Let the carrier become a comfortable safety den instead of an alien abduction mobile.
For older kitties already too scared of their carriers talk to your vet about mood stabilizing sedatives and anxiety relieving drugs like gabapentin and xanax.
Vet Visit Essentials
Complete Medical records: Vaccines, de-worming, medications, surgeries. Medical invoices, we too often see-- lack findings, diagnostics, lab tests and treatments.
Ask the Vet List
Diet Optimal species- appropriate nutrition forms the cornerstone of disease prevention and is a crucial cost-cutting strategy. Cut out ingredient labels or take a picture from every container of food and treats to discuss with your veterinarian.
Vaccines. Kittens start their core vaccines called FVRCPC (feline virus rhinotracheitis, calici virus, panleukopenia ( distemper more like puppy parvo virus of cats) at six weeks. Boosters are needed every month until 12-16 weeks of age.
Some vaccines are boosted annually and others every three years.
FeLV (feline leukemia virus) & FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) test results on the kitten or her mother. Every kitten must be screened for these life threatening viruses before you become too super attached. If mom tested negative, it will save the kitten from being poked for blood to be tested and you will save some money.
If she or her mother tested negative-- consider vaccinating for FeLV. FIV vaccine is also available but it's benefits are equivocal--it isn't considered a core vaccine.
Parasite control. Whether internal worms, fleas or heart-worm are distributed in some geographical areas and not others. Your veterinarian will know which parasites and which medications are appropriate in your area.
Identification tags and microchips. Odds of finding a lost kitty who isn't microchipped are about one in three. Microchips are a great idea making reunions with lost pets much more likely.
Litter-box training, scratching posts, nail trimming, enrichment and exercise tools.
Kittens are easiest to socialize as youngsters. Like tiny supercharged kids their brains are like little sponges absorbing and interpreting information about their surroundings from you. They are easiest to train in the first six months of life and respond best to patient, consistent and positive reward-based training. Ask your vet how to do it.
Do you need to teach your kitten not to jump on your kitchen counters? Remember cats are exquisitely textural--it's about how surfaces feel. Ask how to make your counters or your couch feel unappealing to the kitten. Teach them now.
Is your kitten confused about your hands with glittering nail-polish and feet-- scratching and biting them? Ask your veterinarian about safe toys for kittens to hunt, pounce on and bite in place of human fingers.
Do you know how to trim your kitten's nails? It is easy to do-ask the veterinarian or her veterinary nurse to show you where "the quick" is. Write it down on your "to ask the vet list".
Surgery Spaying and Neutering. Ask your veterinarian about ideal time to do these necessary elective procedures, anesthetic choices, anesthetic monitoring, pain relievers,
pre-operative preparations and costs.
Dental Care. Cats don't conceptualize pain and are famous for hiding it, so it's up to you to recognize when your kitty might have a toothache, and prevent it.
Learn how to avoid accidents, toxin exposure, and invest some time into researching kitty nutrition. Feed your companion a diet designed to prevent chronic diseases.
Best value at the vet--disease prevention!!
If your kitty is sick
Your careful detailed observations are extremely valuable-- you are your kitty's voice! But your diagnosis isn't! Sorry.
You will be wasting your money and your time expecting the veterinarian to respect your or Dr. Google's interpretations. Spend your time describing in detail what you saw, the sequence of events and your concerns, but let the vet interpret them.
Better yet, record your detailed observations--we love journals!
Scribble good notes and take advantage of your vet's professional training and years of clinical experience.
"My cat is drinking too much" is a great piece of information vs "My cat has diabetes"- a medical diagnosis, not so much.
"My cat is vomiting every week" is an observation of clearly abnormal symptoms that need attention vs "My cat is eating too fast and that makes her vomit weekly"- is an inaccurate diagnosis.
Is your cat doing something weird but you can't tell what it is....s hick-ups, a cough, a sneeze or puking? Whip out your smartphone--film it and bring the video to the vet.
You think your kitty has a bladder infection? You may be wrong or right, but If you bring a urine sample with you it'll be easier for your vet to find out. Try putting aquarium gravel into a clean dry litter box, collecting the urine that runs off and bringing it with you in a clean tupperware container. Our clients are sent home with a syringe and a plastic tube to bring these helpful samples in. Half a teaspoon of cleanly collected fresh urine gives your vet a lot of very helpful information.
Scheduling the vet appointment
Unless your cat is sick needing to be seen right way--pick a day you aren't overwhelmed with a mile long to-do list. Give yourself and your kitty plenty of time.
Chances are your vet is too busy to repeat themselves and answer the same question three times to different family members. If your kitty belongs to a large family, designate one human to be the official spokesperson and consider recording the visit for the rest.
In spite of our best plans, accidents and age associated diseases are outside of our control. We've come a long way from the days of James Harriott and having tools at our disposal like CAT scans and MRIs are both a blessing and a curse because pet parents can sometimes face run-away costs.
So, please be prepared. Research financing options like Care Credit and veterinary insurance companies such as Trupanion, Healthy Paws and numerous others insurance options--before you need them.
Veterinary teams will gladly provide you an estimate but veterinary fees are payable when services are rendered. It is customary to leave a deposit of half projected costs for hospitalization, surgeries or extensive diagnostic work-ups.