8 Tips for Taking Your Kitten to the Veterinarian
By: Carleigh Cathcart, BSc
2nd year Student Veterinarian, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
November 16, 2018
Congrats on the newest member of your family! While you are surely busy with all the excitement of a new kitten, it is important that you start off on the right paw by ensuring he or she gets the veterinary care they need to thrive. Below are 8 tips to help you prepare for Fifi’s first visit to the veterinarian!
1) Prep your Kitten for their veterinary visit!
A trip to the veterinarian is often viewed as a stressful experience for both pet and owner, but it does not have to be! The benefit of working with your new kitten is his or her young age, which brings with it an important period of socialization and conditioning to various exposures.
Take advantage of this so-called naivety by desensitizing your kitten to the sounds, scents, and sensations he or she will experience at the veterinarian’s office. Even better, associate those classically ‘scary’ things with something positive, like a treat. Expose Fifi briefly to interactions such as those below, making sure to reward him or her immediately after. Start with brief interactions and work your way up. Overwhelming your cat (or any animal) will benefit no one, so always be sure to end on a good note.
- Handle paws and legs in preparation for his or her physical exam (and the inevitable nail trims!)
- Practice looking in their mouth, ears, etc.
- Once they are confident, ask a friend or relative to do these tasks so that Fifi is comfortable even when strangers are doing the poking and prodding
2) Trips Can be Tricky!
To avoid future scratches or under-the-bed coaxing episodes, accustom Fifi to her carrier well in advance of the appointment.
- On a non-travel day, leave the carrier out where she can see it. Later, you can place treats close to - and then inside - the carrier, allowing your kitten to approach the carrier on her own terms.
- You can progress to shutting the carrier door, then transporting Fifi to the car in the carrier, etc. The goal is to make your kitten view their carrier and car trips with positive rather than negative associations.
- Car sickness: Some pets do, unfortunately, develop motion sickness en route! If you find this to be a recurring problem, talk to your veterinarian about appropriate options. Do not try to medicate on your own.
- In advance, write down any questions or concerns you want to address with your veterinarian. Also, ensure you know her feeding routine and if she/ he has any prior paperwork, be sure to bring that along.
It is also helpful to bring along a poop souvenir from the litterbox in case the veterinarian wants to run a fecal test. These tests check for the presence of unwanted guests such as worms.
3) When You Arrive
The veterinarian’s office can be a scary or overstimulating place, especially for a nervous animal visiting for the first time. Anxiety can be worsened when waiting rooms are filled with loud or unfamiliar noises, such as the barks of strange dogs. If possible, ask to wait for the veterinarian directly in the exam room, where the smells and sounds are less intimidating. In fact, some clinics may even have a separate entrance or waiting area for cats, so it is worth inquiring ahead of your visit.
If your kitty does experience anxiety, Feliway© may be of assistance! This is a pheromone-based product that typically helps cats feel calmer and safer. It comes in different forms and can be applied both prior to and at the clinic. If you think your kitty needs it, talk to your veterinarian for more details.
4) Starting the appointment
What questions will my veterinarian likely ask? What information should I be ready to share?
- Any problems or concerns you may have
- Urination and defecation history, including any abnormalities
- Feeding regime – how much, how often, which brand, and treats
- Your cat’s home life – play time, indoor or outdoor access, other pets or children, etc.
- Any behavioural concerns or issues
5) Exam Expectations
After getting the latest info on Fifi, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam. Typical components of the physical exam may include:
- Taking your cat’s TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate)
- Checking the eyes, ears, and mouth
- Feeling the bones/joints/limbs and lymph nodes
Do not to become offended if the veterinarian asks his or her assistant or technician to hold Fifi during the exam rather than you. Technicians and assistants go through training for proper animal restraint. This ensures not only that all people in the room are safe and comfortable, but that your pet is, too.
6) I am not Lion – Cats Need Vaccines, Too!
If you are taking a healthy kitten to a veterinarian, you are likely there for his or her vaccines. Understanding the timelines and abbreviations behind vaccines can be rather confusing. While your veterinarian will be happy to further explain Fifi’s shots, here is a quick overview of what you will need to know:
- By law, your cat must be vaccinated against rabies - a fatal disease for humans and animals alike.
- The most common kitten vaccines include protection for the diseases known as panleukopenia, calcivirus, and rhinotracheitis (herpes). These are referred to as core vaccines and are considered required for all cats.
- There are some non-core vaccines that your veterinarian may discuss with you based on your kitty’s lifestyle. These vaccines are not typically given to all cats, but are recommended if an animal is deemed to be at risk.
Prevention of these potentially devastating diseases is well worth the time and investment for your favourite feline!
You can visit the helpful vaccine pages of the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners for more info:
7) Concluding the Consult
Congrats! You have survived your first kitty visit to the veterinarian. Before you leave, now is the chance to share any last minutes questions or concerns that have not been addressed in the appointment. If you are being sent home with any preventatives or medication, be sure you understand the directions on how to use them. Clarifying anything you are uncertain about is always a safer route than guessing.
Finally, you will be asked for payment as you leave. Clinics will offer a detailed invoice, so you can see exactly how much you are being charged, and for which services. Feel free to ask questions if there is something on your invoice that you do not understand.
8) The Next Steps
Before leaving, also be sure to book your next vaccine appointment! You can expect your kitten to need vaccinating at approximately 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Consult with your veterinarian for Fifi’s specific schedule.
Also, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your kitten’s reaction to the vaccines given. While it is normal for animals to seem a little tired or sore for a day or two after getting poked, if you are concerned, it is better to be safe than sorry!
Reactions that warrant immediate veterinary attention include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Facial swelling or the appearance of ‘hives’
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Collapse or non-responsive
Check out the American Veterinary Medical Association’s page for more information on "What to expect after your pet’s vaccination".
Do not wait for your next scheduled appointment if new concerns arise. Be aware of what is Fifi’s ‘normal’ so you can recognize if anything changes.