scared cat at vet clinic

Make it Easy to Reduce Fear  

Question:

Your columns convinced me to take my cat to the veterinarian for regular exams. Now I need your advice on how to corral him to get him to there. He will not go near a carrier (although he did investigate it after I put in some catnip and sprayed it with Feliway). At night he wants affection.  But during the day he acts afraid. He resists by biting and scratching any effort to restrain him.  He isn’t attracted to food or treats. He runs from unfamiliar people. He has never taken medicine by mouth. My only idea is to trap him with a humane trap.

 

Dr. Nichol:

Your kitty’s fear of people is not rare. Many cats, especially the old timers, balk at changes in routine or handling. If your boy was not exposed to appropriate human interactions during his sensitive social period (2-7 weeks of age) he may always associate fear with being held still by a stranger like a veterinarian. Cats, as it turns out, can become accustomed to almost anything as youngsters. But once they’re adults, and set in their ways, they are unlikely to change.

Beyond what goes on in your boy’s brain at these times there may be other physical factors in his behavior. Some cats who won’t accept handling have really uncomfortable skin. This can result from smoldering skin disorders like mange, low grade bacterial or yeast infections, or allergies.

Struggling with your cat would be a mistake and could damage your relationship. I advise asking a house call veterinarian to visit and evaluate your boy from a distance. The doctor can then prescribe an antianxiety medication called gabapentin. If the contents of a full 100 mg capsule is sprinkled on or mixed with a small amount of food your cat, if he’s hungry, should be happy to consume it. Two hours later he should be relaxed and manageable.

You can have the same veterinarian meet you at the animal clinic for a full exam, a lab draw, and a skin evaluation. Vaccinations wouldn’t be a bad idea either. The Feliway spray is a great idea. Every little bit helps.

 

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnicholor by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.