Low stress handling techniques are the answer when cats are so scared to go to the vet that it impedes their ability to receive consistent, ongoing veterinary care. These innovative techniques for handling cats make a world of difference when your cats are scared of the vet. The veterinarians and veterinary technicians at Aurora Cat Hospital & Hotel have been trained in these techniques…which makes for a more relaxing visit to the cat vet!
The concept of low stress handling was enhanced by Dr. Sophia Yin – a veterinarian who was particularly interested in animal behavior. She found that the first obstacle in reducing the stress of visits to the vet was to address and change the way cats (and other pets) are handled while at the vet hospital. Her work involved developing techniques and tactics to conduct veterinary business without aggressively restraining animals or forcing them to be submissive for examinations.
Visits to the vet are particularly traumatic for cats. While they may be hunters at heart, they are still aware of being “prey” for larger animals. Being held down, poked, and prodded by large, unfamiliar human brings up instinctual fear of being helpless and taken by a larger predator.
While indoor cats enjoy a more comfortable life than cats allowed to roam outdoors, that quiet, cushy life makes the trip in the car and the exam or treatment at the veterinary hospital all the more traumatic.
When cats arrive at a veterinary clinic, it’s quite common that they’ve already been traumatized by being plucked from their home, put in a crate, and driven through traffic in a car. Many cats who arrive at veterinary clinics already want to hide, and are already fearful. Instead of compounding those anxieties, we deploy low stress handling techniques and tactics.
Here’s a look at some of the low stress handling techniques and tactics that can be used to calm a frightened cat, and still complete the goal of a veterinary exam or procedure.
Low Stress Handling Technique 1: Allowing them to hide & feel more secure
Many frightened cats want to hide. We respect that instinct, and drape a towel over a scared cat’s head and body during an exam or veterinary procedure to help reduce anxiety.
Low Stress Handling Technique 2: Work from back to front
When a physical exam is needed for a cat, it’s often helpful to work from the tail forward. Many cats are less fearful when their heads are examined last.
Low Stress Handling Technique 3: Utilize the cat’s sense of smell
Like many animals, cats process the world around them through a sense of smell. We understand cats and have found a positive way to create a low-stress experience for our feline patients who are visiting the vet or a boarding facility. Cats release pheromones to signal other cats if there’s danger or safety. If cats enter an area where a cat has already had a traumatic experience, the new cat entering the area will know that, based on smell alone. The newcomer is then apprehensive when entering the space. Researchers have developed synthetic pheromones for cats that signals that the area is safe, and there’s no cause for fear. We routinely use the highest quality synthetic feline pheromones to signal cats that our cats only hospital is a sanctuary.
Low Stress Handling Tecnique 4: Bring familiar food or a favorite treat
Another way to convey to cats that they are in a safe place is to bring their favorite foods to the appointment. We ask pet parents to not give their cats food or treats for 6 hours prior to the visit, so their cats will be hungry when they come in and they’re more likely to eat while in the hospital.
Low Stress Handling Technique 5: Position the cat parent in the middle of the room
Low stress handling also means low restraint handling. In other words, cats are not forced or held down. Our expert team members are trained to coax a reluctant patient out from behind their guardian so the veterinarian can perform an exam. One successful strategy is to position the cat parent in the middle of the room sitting on the floor. Most cats will move to the middle of the room to be near their familiar cat parent.
For low stress handling techniques to be effective, we rely on participation and patience by the cat parent, too. Sometimes that means the visit to the vet hospital takes more time. By thoughtfully deploying low stress handling techqniques for cats, they can be “re-wired” to stay calm while at our vet hospital or while boarding.
If your cat is terrified of going to the veterinary hospital, there are several strategies for choosing a facility that will help your cat get over its fears:
1) Choose a cats only veterinary hospital or boarding facility
2) Choose a veterinary hospital that offers low stress handling for cats
3) Call the veterinary clinic and ask for a meet-and-greet with the veterinarian. Explain your concerns, see how they react, and then listen to their explanations of how they would approach your fearful cat.
4) Be prepared for the extra time. Fearful cats usually take longer initially. Once they are accustomed to the low stress handling and understand they are not going to be harmed or man-handled, subsequent visits usually require less time.
Low stress handling techniques for cats are the next generation of compassionate, effective strategies to help ease your cat’s fear of visits to the vet. By using these techniques, your cats will be more willing to visit the vet, and it will be easier to provide them to ongoing veterinary care needed to keep them healthy and happy for the long term.
Need to set an appointment for a fearful cat? Contact Aurora Cat Hospital & Hotel at 720-638-4482, or Email Us to request an appointment