It’s that time of year again—your kitty’s annual wellness appointment has arrived. Neither you nor your cat are fans of that clunky carrier that transports your pet to Burlington Veterinary Center, and the thought of the car ride with a yowling cat fills you with dread. Our team understands that cats are homebodies, so we cater to their sensitive needs to ensure maximum comfort in an unfamiliar place. Cats also are highly territorial, and do not appreciate change, so breaking out the carrier once per year to transport your furry pal to a strange place with odd smells and other pets throws them for a loop. 

As a feline-friendly hospital, we have transformed our facility, handling skills, and medical practices, to incorporate methods that reduce our feline patients’ stress, fear, and anxiety. We focus on the reasons cats are unique, and by understanding their behaviors, thoughts, and anxieties, we create for them a soothing, efficient veterinary visit. To help your cat become accustomed to the carrier and—dare we say—enjoy their annual exam, let’s outline the best carrier-training method for your kitty. 

How to get your cat to our hospital

Be honest—do you remove your cat’s carrier from the closet only when it’s time to head to our veterinary center? Your cat is highly intelligent, and will pair the carrier with a bumpy car ride, an unfamiliar place, and strange people, pets, and smells, which are all unpleasant for a cat. Teach your feline friend that the carrier is a harbinger of good things, not doom. Follow these steps to carrier-train your cat, and your pet will be leaping in, as soon as the door opens:

  • Leave the carrier out at all times, ensuring the door remains open.
  • Place a cozy bed, toys, and treats inside the carrier. Occasionally replenish the treats, as your cat likely will eat them on the sly.
  • Avoid pouncing on the carrier and slamming the door shut when your cat enters, because this will scare your pet, and further reinforce their carrier aversion.
  • Feed your cat small portions of canned food only inside the carrier. Canned food is a treat for many cats, who will slink inside the carrier to indulge.
  • As your cat becomes comfortable with the carrier containing only good things—food, bed, toys, catnip—work on closing the door when your pet is preoccupied with the goodies. When they are focused on eating the canned food, for example, push—do not latch—the door shut. 
  • If your cat remains relaxed and comfortable inside the carrier with the shut door, latch the door. Reward your pet for good behavior with tiny treats pushed through the door. After a few seconds, open the door, and let them out. Repeat this process, building up the time your cat spends inside the carrier before opening the door.
  • With time, your cat will learn the carrier holds delicious food they do not get anywhere else, and they can safely rest in their comfortable den. 
  • Routinely put treats inside your cat’s open carrier to further reinforce it is a wonderful place, and to reward your pet each time they enter the carrier.  

When the day of your cat’s annual wellness visit approaches, ensure your feline friend is hungry, and place a small amount of canned food in the carrier. Once your kitty enters for their snack, latch the door shut, and head to your car. If you think your cat needs more help, request pre-visit pharmaceuticals (PVP) to help soothe their anxiety about the carrier, traveling, and the veterinary hospital. Gabapentin is an excellent medication for easing your pet’s stress, and can often make the difference between a hands-off, or a comprehensive, thorough exam.

Why wellness care is essential for your cat

Although dogs receive the bulk of veterinary care, cats also need routine wellness care to remain healthy. Since we understand the challenges of getting cats to our hospital, we strive to make each visit as pleasant as possible. Trust us—we also have cats who totally change their behavior when they encounter a new place or person. We’ve been specially trained, and have completely transformed the way we practice feline medicine to achieve a Cat Friendly Practice designation, which vouches for our efforts in catering to our feline patients. Rest assured that your beloved feline will have the most relaxing veterinary visit here at Burlington Veterinary Center.

Why do we recommend routine wellness visits, if your cat appears healthy? For young, healthy adult cats, we recommend annual wellness visits to monitor their health status, and to offer guidance on helping them live longer. Each wellness visit offers the following services:

  • Lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations
  • Parasite screening and prevention
  • Comprehensive physical exam
  • Diet and nutrition recommendations
  • Problem-behavior management
  • Grooming advice
  • Dental care recommendations
  • Baseline diagnostic testing

Each service that we provide during your cat’s wellness visit is designed to help your four-legged friend live their best life. One of the most important ways to ensure your cat remains healthy is baseline diagnostic testing, which allows us to monitor your pet’s normal values and catch disease in the earliest stages. With early detection, we can more easily treat or manage illness. As your cat ages, we recommend switching to biannual visits to stay on top of their health.

Does your feline friend stress at the sight of the carrier? Contact our cat-friendly team for additional advice on carrier-training, or to request a gabapentin prescription, to help mellow out your cat prior to an appointment.