Feline “Chill Protocol”
Many cats experience a significant amount of anxiety with traveling and veterinary visits. Signs of fear include hiding in the back of the carrier, hissing and swatting at people, trying to bite, drooling, and urinating/ defecating/ vomiting in the kennel or while being handled. Each scary trip to the vet makes the next time even more stressful. Also, fear-induced aggression is dangerous for both your cat and for the people handling it.
A safe, more pleasant visit to the hospital starts at home with the following steps!
1) Use an appropriate cat carrier. Cats are more scared when they feel exposed, so solid-sided carriers are more comforting than wire cages or clear-sided carriers.An easily removable top is also helpful both for cleaning and for our examinations.
2) Get your carrier out of storage at least a week before it’s time to use it. Clean it out well to remove any fear pheromone residue from previous use. Help acclimate your pet by leaving the carrier in a prominent place in your home near where your cat is fed, and leave treats and toys in it to encourage exploration.
3) Medicate with gabapentin 2-3 hours prior to departure time if prescribed by a veterinarian (see below).
4) Wipe down the carrier with a Feliway wipe 15-30 minutes prior to departure time. Feliway contains synthetic pheromones which are calming to many cats.
5) DO NOT chase your cat around the house and force it into the carrier when it is already worked up! If you can’t catch your pet, neither can we! Please call us so we can discuss additional measures to help with your pet’s anxiety and reschedule your appointment.
6) Make sure the car is a comfortable temperature with no loud music, and secure the carrier in a location that won’t allow it to tip or slide around.
We may prescribe gabapentin capsules (100 mg) to your cat to help reduce anxiety. This medication is considered safe in healthy cats (and even most sick cats). Gabapentin minimizes the stress your pet experiences, decreases the amount of anesthetics needed for a safer surgery, and provides some pain management. This medication may cause significant drowsiness (which should wear off within ~12 hours), so stairs and jumping should be avoided after being medicated.
While giving oral medication to cats can be difficult, the following steps usually work well:
1) Feed a smaller-than-normal meal the night prior to your visit. If your pet has constant access to food, remove that food around 7 pm. Decreasing access to food the night before will help encourage your pet to eat the medication the next morning.
2) 2-3 hours prior to departure, mix the powder from the gabapentin capsule with 1-2 tablespoons of strong flavored canned food or tuna and offer this to your pet. This is considered safe even if your pet is scheduled for anesthesia and surgery.
We look forward to a calm, stress-free visit with your pet!