This is the story of Sherman, a cat who learned to hate going to the veterinarian. This sad turn of events led to serious challenges for this fine kitty.
His people acknowledged that it had been a long time since Sherman had seen a doctor. It wasn’t that they didn’t feel that it was important; Sherman just hated going. During his first veterinary visit after moving to California several years earlier, the staff had taken Sherman to the treatment room for his vaccination booster. His folks heard their boy cry out.
The next time routine care was needed, after a lot of pushing, shoving, coaxing, and cajoling to get Sherman into his carrier, he became intensely aggressive toward the doctor and staff. Believing that cats, especially those living indoors with doting pet parents, don’t really need a lot of preventative care, they gave it up. Cats are pretty adept at managing their own health anyway, aren’t they? Actually, cats have as much need for annual exams and preventive medicine as anyone.
Each of Sherman’s cat parents had a full-time career; they’d never had human children. This cat was it for them. They loved him intensely. They certainly would have brought him in for annual wellness exams and routine labs as recommended but for one major problem. With just one serious scare their kitty innately employed the behavioral principle of one-event learning.
Cats require less medical management than dogs and pretty much care for themselves. Really? No, not really. That badly flawed notion is widely believed because cats hardly ever complain.
We veterinarians carry a huge responsibility to our patients and the people who cherish them. We are all well-served by a recently developed initiative called Fear Free. Veterinarians, their staffs, pet groomers, trainers, and even pet parents can take the appropriate training modules online. Veterinary professionals can become certified. I am residency trained in the specialty of veterinary behavior medicine. I’m a true believer in Fear Free. I was credentialed early.
We have good methods for helping pets who’ve already learned to react to veterinarians with defensive aggression. But, as is often true in life, avoidance of the initial life-altering event is undoubtedly best for everybody, most importantly the pet. Fear Free certified veterinary facilities are the best. Look for the Fear Free logo on their websites.
I hope you find this information useful. You’re welcome to share this podcast with any of your pet-loving friends. If their pets are nervous during veterinary visits, well, they’ll be glad for the advice.
Each week I share a short video, a podcast, or a blog to help bring out the best in pets. You can sign up at no charge on my website, drjeffnichol.com. And when you do, I’ll send you my free at-home pet first aid and CPR guide.
Thanks for listening. I’m Dr. Jeff Nichol.