How to Get Your Cat to the Vet with As Little Valium As Possible
by Marjorie Dorfman
Follow this step by step guide to outsmarting your pet, even if it turns out to be your own head that the doctor ends up examining! Read on, lovers of felines everywhere.
Perhaps the recent escapade of transporting my cat to the veterinarian for a surgical procedure will ring a bell, however faint, in the minds of all cat owners, (if there is such a thing). While there have been many times that I have had to cancel routine exams because the cat in question was suddenly nowhere to be found, scheduled surgery demands respect, persistence and concentration. Whoever said that cats were dumb animals could never have experienced what happens the moment a carrier is introduced anywhere into the picture. Instantly, within multi-cat households especially, an alarm is triggered to hide and let them go seek that no one with less than four legs can hear. It is perhaps akin to animal communication in the wild before a fire or oncoming storm. No matter how inconspicuously the carrier sits in your home, THE CATS KNOW THEY ARE GOING SOMEWHERE (and it is always somewhere they dont want to go).
My little Mitzu, a darling 10-month-old gray tabby new to my household, needed de-clawing. I, foolishly thinking I had been through this before and was prepared to handle things, was of course, wrong. Since she had already missed one appointment with the vet, conveniently disappearing, like a ship in a storm, as soon as the carrier came down from the closet some ten days before, I was determined that she would not miss this one. I even left the carrier where it had been since the last denouement (in a corner of my dining room) thinking it would seem to the cats to be a permanent piece of clutter or furniture (to be clawed at, chewed on, ignored, whatever).
My first mission (and I chose to accept it) was to insure that Mitzu ate nothing before her surgery and at the same time provide my other cats with breakfast. Piece of cake, you say? Well, just remember what happened to Marie Antoinette after she told the French people to eat cake. My first problem was that I could not isolate her from the other cats. The night before I had sneaked the carrier with a bowl of water and a litter pan into my guest bedroom, and when I saw her sleeping by the window in there I closed the door, convinced that victory was nigh and the next morning would be Marie Antoinettes favorite dessert. But to my utter dismay, she was able to get the door open because of an uneven carpet that prevented proper closure.
So Mitzu is free to roam and pillage all night. On the important morning, while the others are screaming for their food, my Mitzu is frenetically chasing a small rubber ball across the living-room floor. I seized the moment and threw the ball up the stairs. I was hoping to corner her in a large closet off my bedroom, which was the only door I could effectively close. I had already moved the carrier (boy that thing gets around), that same little bowl of water and that same makeshift litter box in there when no one was looking (if there ever is such a time with cats). Mitzu followed the ball up to the top of the stairs and up to the door of the closet, where suddenly she stopped and realized my game. (I even tried to throw the ball into the carrier, really pushing my luck.)
She ran under the bed and I counted my feline blessings. (Cant do sheep. Not appropriate.) At least I had contained her in my bedroom, which limited her straying options and enabled me to feed the rest of the hungry, screaming horde. After breakfast, thoughts of Valium wanted to dance through my head, but I turned them all down. I needed all my energies to focus on how I was going to get Mitzu into the carrier and off to the vet. (And then maybe there would be time for some Valium for me.)
Well, its all behind us now and she is fine. I still need some Valium from time to time however, and have evolved the following course of action for those of you out there who might be faced with a similar dilemma.
Your first course of action must be psychological. The carrier should be in plain view for at least twenty-four hours before any trip to the vet. Going to the closet and taking it down from that shelf is the signal that a trip is nigh and, even though you cannot hear it, the alarm rings loudly and disperses throughout your own private animal kingdom.
Secondly, for a few hours before the scheduled veterinary visit pretend you really dont want to take any of the cats anywhere at all. (If necessary, get into the carrier yourself to convince any feline that doesnt believe you.) This may or may not win your cats trust, and it is unlikely to win you any friends or help you to influence people. Bring food, meds and something to read (preferably a good mystery that will allow the release of hostilities). Your sojourn in the carrier should be constant for however long it lasts. Getting in and quickly out again is a sure sign of deception.
Buy some cat videos and play them for an hour or so before the trip. Watch them with your cats and spend some quality time. The family that plays together, stays together. Get them to think you are one of them. (Same idea as the carrier. If its good enough for you to sit in, its good enough for them.)
Forget about expecting your cats to please you and show their appreciation for everything you do. They do more for you anyway and like Rhett Butler, they dont give a damn.
You might try having a tantrum just before departure. Make sure it occurs after watching the videos. (One must structure both time and strategy). Meow and carry on so they will think the "big cat" is in distress. They may or may not come to help, providing a window of opportunity to slip out of the carrier while pulling them inside. (Not enough time to close the lid, however, creating the same problem all over again even if you can possibly coordinate this.)
In short, be like the Boy Scouts. Prepared is the word, I suppose, but how can one ever be when cats are involved? The best strategy is to keep a lot of Valium on hand and let the cats, since they are so smart, figure the whole thing out. I dont know about you, but Im tired. Mitzu has found a way to lock me in my guestroom and the others are nowhere to be seen. Just another day in the life of a feline caretaker. Have fun and remember: the Valium you take should be your own!
Did you know . . .?
See these related articles:
How to Administer Medication to Your Cat Without Taking Some Yourself
Feline Foibles: Well, No Ones Purrfect!
Here's some books that could really be of help:
The Well Cat Book:
The Classic Comprehensive Handbook of Cat Care
by TerriI McGinnis, DVM
This book features sections on daily care, preventive medicine, and training. It teaches cat owners how to detect signs of illness, diagnose problems, and begin home treatment thereby avoiding expensive and often unnecessary trips to the vet. Every line contains meaty, solid, specific information that lets us do our best for our loving, trusting animals. Dr. McGinnis demonstrates respect not only for animals but for their guardians, too.
Think Like a Cat:
How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat Not a Sour Puss
by Pam Johnson-Bennett
A popular cat expert and award-winning author of four books on feline behavior reveals the key to a satisfying and rewarding relationship with your cat, helps you understand the instincts that determine feline behavior, positive and negative. An authoritative resource for cat owners of all stripes, This book covers everything from where to get a kitten to choosing a vet; from basic health care to treating more serious medical problems; from selecting an irresistible scratching post to avoiding litter box problems.