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Is your cat afraid of the vet?

Is your cat afraid of the vet?

18th Feb 2023

Most of my dogs have treated a visit to the vet like a meetup zone filled with other people and other dogs. My cats have been clear: they think it's a trip to a bed of rusty nails.

Veterinary Practice News (VPN), cited below, has written about cats' fear of the v-e-t. VPN offers newly revised guidelines that aim to "help minimize fear, anxiety, and stress in cats and, by extension, increasing feline visits" to the veterinarian.

I've paraphrased three of the new guidelines for cat parents and cat health professionals:

1. Educate cat parents on reducing their feline's stress when traveling to and from the vet’s office in a carrier.

2. Initiate interactions with cats at the vet to minimize handling and restraint. These will help lessen the cat's stress created by unfamiliar environments. Vet office staff members and cat parents might want to check out the articles and videos at the 2022 AAFP/ISFM Cat Friendly Veterinary Interaction Guidelines: Approach and Handling Techniques cited below.

3. Realize that each cat seen is different. Therefore, tailor approaches to examinations and treatments for each cat's behavior and condition.

Another helpful tip for improving your cat’s experience at the vet is researching which vet offices in your area have acquired “Fear Free Certification,” cited below. Initiated by Dr. Marty Becker in 2016, Fear Free Certification was designed to "prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them." My veterinarian has two staff members with this certification, and I find office visits less stressful. And my current kitty no longer tries to rip everyone's face off while at the vet.

PetMD interviewed Dr. Joanne Loeffler, DVM, and Fear Free Certified Practitioner on this topic. A veterinarian at the Telford Veterinary Hospital in Telford, Pennsylvania, Dr. Loeffler said, "the primary difference between traditional and Fear Free veterinary care is the way the vet and staff members interact with the patient."

"The traditional way of doing veterinary medicine was to make the pet deal with whatever procedure we needed to get done," said Dr. Loeffler. "That would mean pinning an animal down, forceful restraint, etc., for sometimes unnecessary things, like a nail trim."

A Fear Free Certified veterinarian faces different expectations from pet owners when treating their animals. Dr. Loeffler said that using Fear Free techniques "allows the practitioner to change their approach to consider the animal's emotional state to accomplish procedures." She added, "Fear Free is a culture change from the way most of us were taught how to handle animals. In the time I've been involved in Fear Free, I've seen such a change in the compliance rate of my patients and clients."

"Fear Free is about treating the animal with respect and working with them to realize the vet's office isn't such a scary place," said Dr. Loeffler.

Fear Free Certification isn’t just for vets. Pet owners benefit from any kind of Fear Free Certified professional who encounters their pet. To find a Fear Free Certified professional in your area, including vets, dog walkers, trainers, groomers, and more, check out the Fear Free Pets link below.

Quote to remember: "To bathe a cat takes brute force, perseverance, courage of conviction, and a cat. The last ingredient is usually hardest to come by." - Stephen Baker


Veterinary Practice News

"Feline-friendly approach improves patient experience"

Sage Journals

"2022 AAFP/ISFM Cat Friendly Veterinary Interaction Guidelines: Approach and Handling Techniques"


"Reducing Vet Clinic Anxiety: Fear Free, Low Stress Handling and Cat Friendly Veterinarians"

Fear Free Certified Professional

"Fear Free Veterinary Certification Programs"