Page 216 - WSAVA2017
P. 216

An Urban Experience
L. Radosta1
1Florida Veterinary Behavior Service, Veterinarian, West Palm Beach, USA
Lisa Radosta DVM, DACVB Florida Veterinary Behavior Service 3421 Forest Hill Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
While the population of cats kept as pets in the
United States increases, feline visits to the veterinarian are decreasing. According to the 2014 Bayer Care
and Usage Study, 80% of the growth potential for veterinarians is in feline care. Unfortunately the majority of cat owners who participated in that survey stated that they felt that veterinary visits were stressful for their cats. In addition, cat owners are stressed themselves. There are ways to make veterinary practices more feline friendly. It is better for the cats, for owners and for the veterinary team.
Carrier choice
Carrier conditioning
Because stress at any point in the veterinary visit including in transit from home to the clinic predicts stress at every other point in the visit, the first step in making your practice more feline friendly is changing the way that your feline patients feel about the cat carrier. Unlike dogs, cats do not have positive experiences with travel and exposure to new environments. The only time that most cats leave the house is when they are going to the veterinarian’s office. Through classical conditioning, the cat carrier is paired with negative experiences repeatedly until even the sight of the carrier causes the cat to be fearful.
Ideally, carrier conditioning should be discussed at kitten appointments with handouts sent home to increase compliance. In kittens and older cats, the following points should be emphasized:
1. Leave the carrier out in the cat’s core area.
2. Make the carrier positive and encourage discovery by placing special toys and treats in the carrier or feeding the cat in the carrier.
3. Take the cat on occasional short rides in the carrier while encouraging a positive emotional state with delicious foods.
4. Leave a bed in the carrier.
5. Put the carrier in the type of location (on the couch, on the floor) where the cat prefers to relax.
If the cat already has a negative conditioned emotional response (CER) to the carrier, desensitization and counterconditioning will be necessary to completely change his emotional state. Desensitization and counterconditioning is a process by which the cat is slowly exposed to the stimulus (the carrier) while using a positive stimulus (food) to change the cat’s emotional state. More information on ideal cat carrier characteristics and carrier conditioning can be found at
Feliway has been shown to decrease stress in cats at the time of catheter placement (Kronen, et al), during hospitalization/boarding (Griffith, et al) and during examinations. Technicians and doctors can use Feliway spray on themselves, mats, blankets and towels. Diffusers can be used in the waiting room, exam room and hospitalization area. Instruct owners to spray Feliway in their cat’s carrier about 30 minutes prior to departure for the veterinary hospital to help relax the cat. For best effects with the spray, leave 20-30 minutes between application and cat exposure.
  The veterinary visit starts with the ride to the veterinary hospital. The owner’s choice of carrier is integral in cat’s acceptance of the carrier and the veterinary visit. The owner should choose a carrier with an inflexible floor so that the cat feels secure. Some cats prefer to hide. The owner should be encouraged to bring a large towel to cover the carrier. Carriers should have an opening in the top and the front. In addition, the carrier must be able to taken apart easily. Dumping a cat who is hanging on for dear life out of a carrier to start the veterinary exam sets a negative tone for the visit. The Catit and Sleepypod carriers are good choices. In the case of the Catit carrier where there are lots of opportunities for the cat to see out of the carrier, it is imperative to have a carrier cover.

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