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Feline Friday: Vet Visits, Stranger Danger and Cat Training

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seren leash & table

Does your cat’s head spin around at the mention of a vet visit?

When Seren was seven, I did the right thing and had her teeth cleaned and baseline blood profile performed, so that by the time she was…well, now!…we’d know what constituted her “normals.” Her teeth actually didn’t need much cleaning.

The vet staff couldn’t get her out of the cage when I came to pick her up. I saw the “cat grabber” netting thing-a-ma-bob they’d used to catch and restrain my 7-pound attack cat. She offered to punish any dog-smelly, needle-poky, cold-thermometer-up-the-ass-ets humans who came near. Many cats practice “stranger danger” and fear the unfamiliar, but Seren went beyond this into full-blown panic mode. The remnants of kitty hallucinogenic anesthesia meant she didn’t recognize me, either, but I got her back into her carrier without the cat grabber and no blood-letting.

The blood tests were suspicious of diabetes—despite no symptoms (drinking waterbowl dry, peeing a river)—and a follow-up urinalysis seemed to confirm it. The vet suggested that stress—STRESS ALONE—drove her blood and urinalysis tests awry. The vet was sure Seren would disappear under the bed for a day or more once back home.

I panicked. How could I have missed the signs? Once home, Seren didn’t disappear—she preened. She complained and kvetched about the horrendous rudeness of humans. And she washed all the stinky-stranger-smell off, and then slept on my lap for an hour.

Within two days, follow up urinalysis tests (that I did at home) indicated she was back to normal. The baseline blood work, for the most part, wouldn’t be helpful because it was so skewed by stress.

Seren had her well-kitty check up this past week, and hurled quite inventive cat-curses throughout the experience. She’s 14-years-young and really should get a check up twice a year. And I strongly recommend cats at least get that yearly exam—but when the visit makes kitties sick, that can be a hard call.

Since that awful teeth-cleaning experience I’ve changed vets and the new “no bad associations” clinic has helped. I also know that Seren has about a 90-second window during which the vet can actually get hands on her for an exam. We make sure she doesn’t have to wait, that no dogs are around, and I do thermometer or other preliminaries before we get to the clinic. I’ve found that wearing a harness and leash not only gives me a better kitty-grip to contain Seren, the snug fit of a harness has a calming effect. It’s also a fashion statement since it matches her blue eyes. It’s easy to train cats and especially kittens to accept a harness and leash, and helps enormously during vet visits. 

Most cats hate the crate simply because it’s used so seldom and associated with scary stuff. In fact, surveys report that “hates the crate” is a top reason cats don’t visit the veterinarian as often as they should. Seren has three crates, and two are out all the time. She uses them as bed-caves, so it was no struggle to put her in the carrier for her vet visit. Learn how to teach your cat to accept the crate and ease vet angst.

Oh, the results of her exam? Her teeth looked good (hissing can be helpful that way!), both ears were clean, heart and breathing sounded fine. I monitor Seren’s intake and output, and her eating and potty habits haven’t changed. Seren tolerated the vet’s handling incredibly well—he’s the only one able to get his hands on her in years, and without a “cat grabber.” The rabies vaccination prompted head-spinning outrage, but she was declared healthy. And nobody needed Bandaids.

Purrs and trills,


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About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

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