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Monday, July 15, 2013

Cat Wrangling, or Adventures in Taking Two Cats to the Vet

Last week, I took my cats to the vet for their annual vaccines and check ups. It was quite the experience, let me tell you. Most non-cat owners might think to themselves, What's the big deal? It's just like going to the doctor, only involving cats.

But those of you out there who have ever owned a cat know that taking any cat to the vet is at best an exercise in frustration, and potentially an exercise in futility.

It's bad enough if I have to take one of the two, but can leave the other at home. But those days when I have to deal with both of them? Oh my. Let me just share the ordeal with you so you can get a better sense of my stress level.

My adventure starts about three hours before the visit to the veterinarian's office. That's when I get the cat carriers down from where I store them. (Yes, I've heard all the conventional wisdom about leaving the carriers out all the time, so they aren't scary for the kitties, and so they can explore and curl up and sleep in the torture devices. I don't have room for that.) Why three hours in advance? It takes about that long for the initial fear that comes from the carriers being down before my cats have calmed down enough they'll come out from wherever they are hiding.

As soon as they see the horrid things (and really, how scary are they?), both cats dart for the closest, deepest, darkest hiding spot they can find, and they stay there for as long as they believe it is necessary to avoid confinement.

While they're getting that out of their system, I move on to Phase Two.

What is Phase Two, you ask? That's where I organize all of the other required items and put them in a single, easy to get to location.

Included in Phase Two: Dakota's anti-anxiety medication, pill pockets to put the pill in, more treats, a laser light, pheromone spray for inside the carriers, and sometimes other toys (depending on just how freaked out the two cats are).

This time? They were Very Freaked Out.

An hour before the vet appointment, I have to give Dakota her anxiety medication. It's also a mild sedative, which we give her in the hopes that she won't bite another vet tech and in turn send the poor vet tech to the hospital. (Yes, this has happened. Dakota Does Not Like The Vet. For good reason, mind you. She's had more painful experiences at the vet in her two years than most cats have in a lifetime.)

With about 30 minutes to spare before the visit, I dose both carriers with some of the pheromone spray, to help keep the cats calm. It's not a miracle worker, but I can promise it helps some.

About 40 minutes after Dakota has been dosed up with anti-anxiety meds, I know I have to wrangle the cats. Kiki must be caught first, because if I start with Dakota, Kiki will have found a place to hide which I will NEVER get her out of. So, I lure Kiki out of hiding by shaking the treat bag, give her a couple of treats, and scoop her up before she wises up and darts away. Into the carrier she goes, and then it's off to snag Dakota.

As she gets older, Dakota is getting a little smarter about these things. Here's where I found her that day--under the bed, right next to the wall, pretty much directly in the center. The bed is a queen. There was NO WAY I could reach her in that position.

Hence the need for the laser light.

I broke that puppy out and got her to chase it. Sadly, even though her desire to play was strong she knew something was up, and so she didn't make catching her very easy. Lucky for me, she is still a little dumb about the places she chooses to hide from me most of the time.

Why do I say that? One of her favorite places to escape is into the bathroom. All I have to do is follow her in, close the door, and she's cornered.

Granted, I still have to carry her out of the bathroom and get her into the carrier, which more often than not means I end up with a few new scratches. (I later discovered that not only did I have a bunch of new scratches on my hands and arms, but my shirt had about a dozen cat claw sized holes. Note to self: Trim her claws about two days before the next vet visit, please. Kthxbai.)

But finally, I managed to catch both cats, get them in carriers, and take them to the vet.

See? Here they are.

We will not mention the horrified cat cries I am forced to listen to in the car the entire way to and from each vet appointment. It would hurt Kiki and Dakota's dignity to reveal such a thing.

Once we arrive at the vet, it's always up for debate as to which one we should start with: the scared but sweet cat (Kiki) or the scared but potentially mean cat (Dakota). Usually, Dakota is up first, so we can get her ordeal over with and put her back into the carrier. It's always amazing to me how easily they go in once we're at the vet, when it is a three-hour endeavor at home.

Here's Kiki in her carrier, trying to search out an escape route for once she's freed from her cage. She spends most of her time at the vet trying to make herself as small as possible, so hopefully no one will see her. It hasn't worked out for her yet, but she keeps trying.

 Maybe someday, Kiki. Don't give up.

Dakota, on the other hand, spends most of her time hissing and growling at vet techs, and then trying to escape.

This time, she seemed to think that no one would find her, despite her growling, as long as she hid under the bench.

Lucky me, I got to crawl down on the floor to pull her back out time and again, because she'd dart down there every time they finished with something.

At least she didn't bite anyone on this trip. Yay, Dakota! Progress.

We can only hope to have a similar result on each subsequent visit. Cross your fingers for us.

During Kiki's exam, they found a mass that was a little bit worrisome. Because of that, we had to do another test, and she wasn't allowed to get back into her carrier right away. That didn't stop her from trying to do precisely that, though.




When she couldn't figure out how to get into the first carrier, she tried the other one. Frankly, any carrier would do if it meant not getting poked and prodded any more.
Sadly for Kiki, she didn't find a way in before they came back to do her other test. We're still waiting on the results, but at least she got to come home afterwards. And, as long as the results are good and neither cat gets sick in the meanwhile, we don't have to go back for another vet visit for six months. Whew!

I think it's safe to say that all three of us will be glad of that.

Do any of you have any great ideas for how to make vet visits easier on my cats and me? Do dogs dread going to the vet as much as cats do? Anyone want to volunteer to come do it for me in six months?

29 comments:

  1. all the conventional wisdom about leaving the carriers out all the time, so they aren't scary for the kitties, and so they can explore and curl up and sleep in the torture devices.

    Is any cat fooled by that? Really?

    Sorry, no advice, but good luck on the test results.

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    1. I have some cat friends who swear by it. I did try it at one point with Kiki when she was little. All it accomplished was having her avoid the room it was in and hissing at it when she walked past. Well, and I kept tripping on it. :/

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  2. The only thing I've found that comes remotely close to helping, and it's sketchy at best, is using an old tshirt. MrMr and I wear one every day after work for about a week and then don't wash them. We put those inside the cages to the kitties have something familiar to smell. They still sing the song of their people though...

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    1. LOL! "sing the song of their people." THAT is the nicest thing I've ever heard that sound called. ;)

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    2. That's a great idea about the T-shirt, Jennelle. I'll have to give that one a try, along with the pheromone spray.

      With Dakota now being the fourth cat I've been Mama to, I've given up on getting them to stop singing in the car. LOL. Every single one of them has done that. :)

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  3. Hmm... We need to outsmart a pair of cats, right? Ok, here is my suggestion - can you close all the doors to all of the "escape" routes before you bring down the carriers? If all of the bedroom doors are closed, it would limit the number of places they have to hide.

    I'm not sure where you keep your carriers, but if it's in one of the rooms that is closed off. You can retrieve them after the escape routes are gone. Then they wouldn't even see them being brought down.

    Escape routes closed off. Shake your treat bag and snatch away before they know what's happened.

    Probably wishful suggestions, but it plays out nicely in my mind. ;)

    As for dogs... Toby never hesitates to go for a "ride". So getting him to the vet is easy. Once we're there, however, he's terrified. They even have to sedate him at the groomers.

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    1. I always tell myself I'm going to do that in advance, and I always forget! I at least need to close the bedroom door, so they can't get under the bed. Just about anywhere else they go to hide, I can grab them if I get them cornered. But under the bed? Impossible.

      It's good to know that dogs get scared at the vet, too. Poor Toby, having to get sedated at the groomer. I understand, though. I never thought I'd have to sedate a cat to take them to the vet, but I've been doing that for over a year now.

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  4. How about the vets that come to you? There are lots of them in this area...

    I hope all the tests come back fine!

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    1. Thanks, Deb! I hate waiting on test results. Gives me too much time to panic. I'd never thought about a vet that comes to you. I'll have to look into that.

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  5. I have two cats rescued off of the streets. I attempted to get both cats to the vet but I only succeeded in getting one of them into a carrier and too the vets. They saw the carrier and would not come out no matter how much I tempted them. I have no advice.

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    1. Oh goodness, Jen. Have you tried putting some strong smelling soft food out? Would that lure the other one? Good luck with getting your rescues taken care of.

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  6. My first dog got so upset going to the vet that they gave us tranquilizer so she was totally out of it at exam time. The cat my husband adopted used to pee and throwup about 15 minutes into the car ride to the vet. It was a 20 minute ride...we never made it without the mess.

    Our current dog usually balks when we are at the reception desk. By that time it's too late and she can be picked up and walked into an exam room.

    Best wishes for the kittie cats. I hope you gave them lots of treats when they got home.

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    1. Oh, Beth. I've been very lucky to never have a cat get sick in the car, though I know of many who have. No fun.

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  7. I don't have any kitties, Catherine, but I do have to take our dog to the vet once a year. Lucky for me, he LOVES the vet. I think he realizes the vet saved his life after he was hit by a car, so he is always happy to visit. :)

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    1. I keep wishing Dakota would realize that the vet has helped her more than hurt her, but no luck so far. She's determined to hate them. :/

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  8. Sorry, no wisdom to make it better for me. I lure my cat toward her carrier with treats the I shove her in by pushing on hercrearxand holding her at the scruff of the neck. I tried the "nice" way before but my cat was having none of that and gave me a giant scratch, so now I'm no nonsense about it. She hasn't figured out to hide when the carrier comes out, but I've only had her for a few months. Hope she never figures it out because our last cat Gandalf would hide and it took forever to coax that little guy out! Then you had to literally use two people to catch him and wrangle him into the carrier! Sure do miss that little devil!

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    1. I'm sure you do, Julie! My first cat, Bailey, was the sweetest cat ever. He was declawed, and he never bit me, but it still took two people to get him in a carrier. He fought so hard. He was always perfectly docile while we were there, but it was a trick to get him there.

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  9. LOL - now THAT is something I don't miss now that I don't have cats. Adventures indeed. Kirk showed me a hilarious picture book at Target all about trying to give your cat a bath that made me laugh, too. Ah, the joy of negotiations with a sharp-clawed (and toothed!) animal ;)

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  10. Good luck with the kitties. I used the same method Julie does. My vet refused to deal with my cat after he tried to reach in her carrier to get her out and got badly scratched (I mean really though..what did he expect?). After inflicting pain, she walked out, happy as she pleased, as if to say "My work is done."

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    1. Lol, Nancy! I'm always baffled by vets who are surprised when cats react aggressively. It's actually not all that uncommon. I always try to find vets who are very comfortable with cats, because it helps the cats to be more comfortable with them. Even though a veterinarian might treat cats, that doesn't mean they like them.

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  11. Catherine,
    Hearing what all you need for a vet visit made me think of trying to leave the house with an infant. :)

    I take my dog and cat to the vet at the same time. It has been a chore to say the least. Our dog is a nervous-drooler, so EW!!! Plus, she weighs about 75 pounds and she is hyper. I have a harness seatbelt I use for her, but last time she got out of it. And the time before, she jumped out of the car with the harness still buckled and fell on her side in the parking lot. I couldn't unfasten her until I lifted all wiggling 75 pounds of her back into the car. And it was raining!!! Now I have use of the SUV since my hubby bought a new car. She loves to go for rides in the truck, so I'm hoping that will make everything easier with her next time.

    Our cat disappears when it's time to go, so I'm always scouring the house for her. Then trying to get her in the carrier is insanely difficult. I swear she's triple jointed in those moments. No matter which way I approach it, she manages to get a leg wedged against the side of the door so I can't get her in. At the last vet visit, they set the carrier on end, covered her head and body with a towel so she couldn't see, and lowered her into the carrier with no troubles. I'll try it next time.

    The sass on the way to the vet just makes me laugh. One of our cats that we don't have anymore kept up a constant conversation and it sounded like he kept saying "No! Liar!" Hahaha... I've started playing relaxing music on the drive. I don't know if it helps the animals, but it makes me less stressed.

    I think Ava has a good idea with closing off the escape routes so they have less places to hide. Or you could get the carrier out the day before the vet visit.

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    1. One trick I learned for getting cats that seem triple jointed inside a carrier is to trap their legs in your hand when you first pick them up. You might try that if putting a towel over the head doesn't work.

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  12. I know how difficult it can be to get your kitties to behave and cooperate at the vet’s. When we first took our kittens to the vet, the nurse took lots of time with them, talking quietly to them, petting them, and giving them little pieces of treats. All of this was before any “bad" things were done. Both kittens were very cooperative with her and the vet too. I realize that the vet is busy, but patience is always the way to go. We expect that out of our own doctors for our children and for ourselves. It’s not too much to ask and sets a great precedence for keeping humans and pets from having a fear of the medical community.

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    1. That's great that they spent some time with them when they were still kittens, Connie! I think it's so important to try to build positive associations early on. Hopefully it will prove helpful for a long time to come.

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    2. Our vet is the same way, Connie. No matter which one we see, the vet is patient and talks sweet to them and gives them treats.

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  13. I was always lucky that I had a spare room where I kept my cats and their things, so I'd just feed them or something and then shut the door until close to the time to leave. I'd sit the carriers up on end, throw a towel over their head, grab them and drop them right in the carrier. It usually worked pretty well. My suggestion is to shut them in a room (such as the bathroom) before getting the carriers out. The towel works very well because not only do you not get scratched, but they can't see where they're going so they don't get scared. I don't have any advise about the yowling in the car, I just always tried to talk to them calmly so they'd know I was there, but it didn't help much. Good luck!

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    1. You'd think the crying in the car would have been eliminated after moving with them from Texas to NC. No such luck. I like the idea of shutting them in the bathroom before pulling the carriers down though. I'll have to try that!

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  14. I happened to see this article on Facebook this morning and I think it’s great. Hope you check it out because it has lots of tips for making that dreaded trip to the vet!! Good luck.

    http://www.andmycat.com/?ref=july16a

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