Starting life with a kitten is an adventure for both of you. And the first big hurdle the two of you may face as you navigate your life together is the visit to the veterinarian. How it goes can determine the path of your new pet’s health care throughout her life. The goal of Fear Free is to ensure that your kitten views veterinarian and staff as friends, not foes, so that future visits are happy ones. Here are our best tips for success.
Don’t rush. Unless she has health issues such as a runny nose or eyes or sneezing, which can indicate a respiratory infection that needs immediate treatment, give your kitten time to settle into her new surroundings.
Prepare your kitten for transport. At home, leave out the carrier she’ll ride in so she can check it out at her own pace. Toss treats inside it for her to find, or feed meals in it to create positive associations.
Give the carrier’s interior some extra oomph with pheromone sprays or wipes. Synthetic feline pheromone products mimic the natural facial pheromones cats produce and may induce a sense of calm and comfort.
Prepare your kitten for a car ride with some practice sessions before the real thing. Place the carrier—cat inside it—behind the front passenger seat. Studies show that’s the safest place for cats to ride. Start the car, back out of the driveway, then return. That’s it. Next time, go around the block. Take her for short errands such as going to the ATM or picking up fast food. Reward your kitten with treats and praise after every ride.
When it’s time for the actual visit to the clinic, don’t take your kitten directly indoors. Let her wait in the car while you sign in with the receptionist. If the lobby is crowded, loud, or populated with dogs, ask the receptionist to call or text you when an exam room is available for your cat. Then take her directly to it from the car, bypassing what could otherwise be a noisy or nerve-wracking wait.
In case your veterinarian doesn’t have one, bring a towel or small blanket spritzed with pheromone spray to place on the exam table. It will give your kitten more secure footing as well as a sense of comfort. It’s also a good idea to have some of your kitten’s favorite treats on hand for the veterinarian and technicians to give her.
Your kitten’s first veterinary visit is the foundation for her nine lives. That’s why our number-one tip is to choose a veterinarian who is Fear Free-certified. He or she will work with you to ensure that your kitten’s first visit is the beginning of a fabulous friendship for all involved.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT