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‘I am NOT going in that box…’ – How To Successfully Get Your Cat To The Vet

Suddenly realise you’re late for your cat’s appointment at the vets. Run out to the garage and throw boxes around until you find cat basket. Scream as you remove spiders from cat basket. Look around the room for cat. No cat. Look upstairs for cat. No cat. Look in all closets for cat. No cat. Go back and look behind the sofa. Find cat. Move sofa, cat runs upstairs. Find cat under bed. Crawl under bed and grab cat by scruff and pull, dragging both cat and half of your carpet out from under the bed. Carry hissing and spitting cat downstairs to basket. Call for help as cat splays all four legs as wide as possible to avoid being put in basket. Finally get cat in basket. Drive howling cat to vet. Present cat, who has now vomited, urinated and defecated in the carrier, to the vet. Sound familiar? I would bet that most cat owners have had a similar experience. And there’s nothing you can do about it, right? Cats hate carriers, cars, and vets and that’s just the way it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By following a few simple steps you can make the whole procedure much easier on both yourself and your cat. Choose the right carrier. There are some really ridiculous cat carriers out there. I’ve seen everything from designer handbags to pink plastic spaceship-like contraptions. Just because they look cute doesn’t mean they’re going to be of any use when it actually comes to transporting your cat. Forget your own sense of style and choose one that works. • The most common cat carrier is either a plastic box or a wicker basket with a single wire door on the front. I don’t know who designed this, or why they thought it was a good idea, but they clearly never had to get a cat into one. Some young and curious kittens may jump right in just because they can, but most adult cats will be wary of walking into a situation that they can’t easily escape from, especially when they’re already stressed. • By far the easiest carriers to use are the ones that have both a side door AND a top door. This gives the cat more options and gives you a much greater chance of getting them both in or out. Another good choice would be one that just has a very large top door. • If you must choose one that has just one side door, at least make sure that it comes apart easily, with large latches that close securely but open easily with one hand. Most vets don’t keep a screwdriver in their consult room, so please don’t bring your cat in something that requires a degree in engineering to take apart. • Fabric carriers may seem nice and comfortable to you, but their flexibility and tendency to collapse actually makes for a very insecure and likely frightening journey for your cat. [caption id="attachment_2185" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Clearly our Kitties don't mind boxes in general!"]Clearly out Kitties don't have a problem with boxes in general![/caption] Use common sense. If you think about it, cats don’t actually hate boxes or baskets, they lie in them all the time at home. They don’t mind being in enclosed places, and they don’t mind the dark. So why do they hate their carrier so much? Because it’s not the carrier itself, it’s the fact that it’s new and different and scary, and if they’ve been in it before, they know the whole process ahead of them is even more different and scary. But you can help them be less afraid- [caption id="attachment_2203" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Indie doesn't mind his carrier as it is used all the time as an alternative bed with a cosy blanket."]Indie doesn't mind his carrier as it is used all the time as an alternative bed with a cosy blanket.[/caption] • Instead of keeping the carrier in a closet or garage, keep it in the living room. Ideally for a few days or even weeks, but at least the 24 hours prior to the appointment. This will give them a chance to check it out on their own time, even go in and out when no one is looking, so it won’t be so terrifying when they are put in it later. • Put treats or a catnip toy in the basket so they are more likely to explore it. • Reward your cat if he does go near or in the basket. • Put your cat’s favourite blanket or some of your own clothing in the carrier if it will fit, to make it smell like home. Alternatively, a calming pheromone spray (Feliway) may help them feel more secure. Be prepared. Make sure you think through every step of the process before you start. Cats are not stupid. They probably know what you’re planning before you do. • The day before the appointment (if you get that much notice), put the basket in one of the smallest rooms of the house, or the one with the fewest hiding places. Open the door to the carrier and leave it open, ready to go. • On the day of the appointment, and in plenty of the time so you are not rushed, collect your cat from their favourite spot in the sun and carry them as you normally would into the room with the carrier, and shut the door behind you. • Have somebody on standby in the next room to help if necessary. • Gently place your cat into the carrier. OK, it’s probably not that easy, but whatever you do, stay calm and don’t panic – they will pick up on your anxiety and then it will be even harder. If you know your cat won’t go into the basket through the door, you can try tipping it on its side so you lower your cat in instead of shoving them in sideways. Alternatively, take the entire top off the carrier and leave it off before collecting your cat, then put the whole thing back together once your cat is inside. If you don’t have a friend to help, make sure the side with the door is facing a wall so they can’t escape through it while you put the top back on. If they can get into the basket without getting upset, chances are the car ride will also go smoothly. There are some cats who simply hate the car though, and in this case, you can try loading up the carrier and car with more Feliway spray, and booking your appointment at a time when there is least likely to be traffic so the journey is a short as possible. Again, whatever you do, stay calm. Because a cat that is calm when it arrives at the vet is more likely to stay calm during the visit, making it easier for the vet to give them a complete physical exam and any treatments that are necessary. And if you can stay calm, you are much more likely to remember not only what questions you were meant to ask the vet, but also what the vet says during the consultation. All of which leads to better healthcare for your pet. Of course, if all else fails, you can always look for a vet that does housecalls... if you are worried about you cat's health please talk to your vet or try our Cat Symptom Guide to check out how soon you may need to see your vet (and so how soon you'll need to get the basket out!)
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Remember, remember……’s time to plan for fireworks night 2012. Cats and dogs that are scared of fireworks.

FireworksFireworks can be an enjoyable spectacle, but not for everybody. Many dogs and cats are very frightened by loud noises, and in some this fear is severe enough to be a noise phobia. For these pets and their owners, the days or weeks around November 5th each year can be a nightmare. The sorts of behaviour shown by noise phobic pets when they hear fireworks (or thunder or gunshots) can range from mild anxiety to sheer terror. In between these two extremes pets may pace around, refuse to settle, whine, bark, chew things up, dig holes, urinate or defaecate indoors or run away. A pet which bolts when frightened is at risk of having or causing a road accident. As owners, naturally we all want to reduce the distress our pets are feeling. There is a lot that can be done to help pets through these problems, and the key to this is to plan as early as possible. Seek advice from your local veterinary surgery, where your vet or nurse will be able to help you decide on the best strategy for your pet. Harvey at the FiresideMaking your pet a safe "den" where they can retreat when they feel scared can help. Playing music or having the television on may reduce the amount of distant noise your pet will hear, but will not mask fireworks which are close by. Walk your dog early in the day while it is still light, when fireworks are much less likely, and provide your cat with a litter tray, allowing them to get used to it well in advance. The way you react when your pet shows fear is most important, and probably the most difficult thing to get right. Our natural reaction is always to soothe and comfort our pet, but this will only reinforce their belief that there is something to be afraid of. The best way to help them is to ignore the fireworks yourself, try to act as you normally would and ignore your pet's behaviour as much as possible. This does not come naturally to anyone who has a distressed pet, but it really can help. Desensitisation to noise over a period of time by using special tapes or CDs can be very successful. It is time consuming and requires commitment on the part of the owner. This is a long term strategy, but can be used in conjunction with other methods. There are also other ways in which a behaviourist may be able to help your pet to react differently to stressful situations. Alan and MavisPheromones are chemical substances which are released in nature by nursing bitches and have a calming effect on their young. Similar facial pheromones are produced by cats to communicate with other cats by rubbing against objects. These chemicals are not masked by smells as they are not detected by the nose but by a quite separate receptor. There are several ways in which synthetic pheromones can be used to calm animals in stressful situations. Synthetic pheromones are available as collars, as sprays or in plug-in diffusers, and your surgery can advise you which would be most appropriate and how to use them. They need to be used properly according to the instructions to be successful. Many people assume that the only solution would be to sedate their pet so that they sleep through the noise, but there are several drawbacks to this. Firstly, sedatives are prescription only medicines which cannot legally be supplied to you over the counter unless your vet is satisfied that he/she has examined your pet recently enough to know what state of health they are in. Popping in to the surgery for some sedatives on November 4th is not likely to be successful. Secondly, different animals react differently to the same drug sometimes, so your vet may want to find the best dosage by having a trial run. Thirdly, if fireworks in your area go on for days or weeks, it is unlikely to be a good idea to sedate your dog or cat repeatedly. If sedatives are used, there has been a change over recent years away from some types which may make the animal quite immobile but do little or nothing to calm its fear. More commonly used now are drugs which calm the animal but do not necessarily knock it out. Top tips for coping with fireworks fear:
    1) Plan ahead & ask for advice at your vets.
    2) Make sure your dogs are walked early in the day and then kept in. Provide cats with a litter tray.
    3) Make a safe den where your pet can retreat.
    4) Play music or TV, try to act normally.
    5) Resist the temptation to soothe and comfort your pet.
    6) Follow instructions carefully for best results from pheromone products or sedatives.
    7) If you left it too late to plan properly this year, make a note in next year’s diary now.
If you are worried about any specific symptoms your pet is showing, talk to your vet or try out our Interactive Symptom Guide to see what you should do.
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Help your dog or cat to overcome travel sickness.

Travel sickness, or motion sickness, can affect cats and dogs just like humans, and can make journeys unpleasant for pet and owner alike. There are several ways in which you can reduce both the fear and the nausea which some pets associate with travel. DOGS Start when your puppy is very young if at all possible. If your dog is already adult and still suffers from travel sickness, don’t despair. If you follow the same steps you will almost certainly help them, although it may take a little more time and patience. First of all you need to decide how your dog is going to travel in the car. It is important for their safety and yours that they are restrained in some way. This could be inside a dog crate, behind a secure dog guard, or clipped by a harness to the seat belt. Whichever you choose, the dog should have an area in which they feel secure and comfortable. Once you have made this choice, it is time to get the puppy used to its travel quarters so that they are not afraid. Start by sitting them in the car, in the place where they will normally travel, for just a few minutes each day without even starting the engine. Sit in the car with them but try not to make too much fuss as this can make them think there is something to fear. It would be OK to give a small tit-bit or have a favourite toy with them. When they are used to the car, start the engine without changing anything else. It is only when your pup is relaxed about being in the car with the engine running that it is time to start short journeys. To start with, journeys should only be a few minutes long, say just around the block. It is always best for your pup to travel with an empty tummy as this will reduce the chance of sickness. As you gradually increase the length of journeys, try to make the destination a pleasant one like a favourite walking place, and try to go regularly. If the only car journeys made are holidays or trips to the vets, when there is a lot of excitement or apprehension amongst the human family, then the dog will be more fearful. If the people can be calm and relaxed, the pup has a better chance of taking travel in its stride. Travelling on main roads, which tend to be straight, rather than winding back roads, can reduce travel sickness in pets, just as in people. Keeping the inside of the car at a comfortable temperature (not too warm) and ventilating well with fresh air can also help. You can also use a special collar which releases pheromones, which can help to relax your dog. Pheromones are a chemical released by lactating bitches which induce a feeling of safety and re-assurance in their puppies. A synthetic version of pheromones is available in several forms, the collar being particularly useful for travel when dogs are afraid of the car. There is a drug available from your vet in tablet form which can reduce nausea and sickness, so if other methods have failed or if you have to make an unusually long journey, have a chat with your vet or vet nurse in plenty of time. Other drugs can be used to calm anxiety and fear. Sedatives would be considered as a last resort if all else had failed, and only for occasional use. It is important to discuss this with your vet in plenty of time too, because these drugs are prescription only medicines, not available to buy “over the counter”. This means that your vet must by law be satisfied that your dog is healthy and has no conditions which might make sedation inadvisable. For example, if your dog had epilepsy, this would affect the choice of drug used. If your dog had not been seen by the vet for some time, they may need an examination first. If a pet is to be sedated for travel, they should never be left unattended in the vehicle. They are unable to regulate their body temperature as normal, so could become dangerously cold or hot with little outward sign of distress. In fact, it is best not to leave any pet unattended in a vehicle, whether sedated or not. CATS Cats tend to travel less frequently than dogs because they do not usually go for exercise by car, but they are just as likely to suffer from travel sickness. This causes drooling, nausea and sickness, and if frightened or distressed they also frequently urinate or defaecate. If you do intend to travel frequently with your cat then it is well worth acclimatising them to it gradually, as for dogs. Like dogs, it is important for safety reasons that cats are restrained, usually in a secure cat carrier. A loose cat could easily get under the pedals with disastrous consequences. Some cats seem happier in a basket where they can see out easily, and others prefer a very enclosed basket, or a blanket draped over it.Travelling with an empty stomach should help, so offer your cat a small meal several hours before travelling. A journey can be made less stressful for your cat by using a synthetic pheromone spray in the basket and inside the car. Like the dog version, this helps to relax and re-assure the cat. Your veterinary surgery will be able to give advice about its use. Drugs for calming cats or reducing sickness or for sedation are available for cats too, and it is a good idea to discuss these with your vet well in advance of any planned long journey if you think your cat will need them.
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