A trip to the vet, even for annual shots, is sometimes as stressful for you as it is for your pet, and if you are stressed, your pet will pick up on that too to make things worse. Sometimes, if they are obviously unwell, it becomes a nightmare.
Taking a cat involves trying to get them into their carry bag, box or cage, which immediately sets alarm bells ringing in the cat as having been an unpleasant experience in the past, and sets them hot-footing it out of the cat flap or under the bed. I have struggled to get all legs in the cage, as no sooner is one in than another pops out, claws extended, to latch onto the side of the cage, before a desperate run for freedom ensues. To help ease this sort of scenario, have the carry cage sit open for a few days if possible, with no attempts made to get them inside. A cat’s natural curiosity will press him into taking a sniff, perhaps an inspection tour, and if you are lucky, he might sit inside – a box is irresistible to a cat most of the time. If he does go in, don’t shut the door, just pretend you haven’t noticed and watch for a second or third visit. You could even sweet talk him into a little trip around the house with the door shut, put the cage down and open it up again, as if to say: “There, wasn’t that fun! Nobody died!” followed by a treat, and hopefully, when the actual due date for the trip comes, it won’t be such a shock.
Dogs are different, as, for the best part, they can’t be caged, so have to be taken loose. One of our adopted dogs was terrified of getting in the car. He was very food orientated, so the way we got around his terror was to feed him by the side of the car several times, then on the ground under the open door, till he was comfortable enough to lean in and approach his bowl while it was on the floor inside the car, and ultimately hunger forced him up on to the back seat for his meal.
Finally, he was comfortable enough to let the door be shut, and eventually, he became one of those dogs who would hang his head out of a moving car given the chance.
For the pets that get travel sickness, it would be wise not to feed them before taking them anywhere to prevent them vomiting or pooping and having to sit in it because you can’t deal with it in a moving car. Have the dog take a walk before getting in the car, often the excitement of the thought of a car trip will encourage an ‘evacuation’ before getting in if you are lucky!
Once at the vet, it’s often a ‘play it by ear’ situation, as every scenario will be different depending on who is also in the waiting room. Turn a cat’s box around so he can’t see any dogs in the queue - you could even cover the cage with a towel or blanket - and put the cage on a level surface, as it can’t be a pleasant experience being suspended in mid-air. With a dog, a little walk around outside before even going through the door will save you the embarrassment of witnessing your dog cock his leg on the water fountain once inside! One of our dogs was so antisocial we had to take him in through the back door in case there was a face-to-face battle with any other dog in reception.
Some animals might even need a prescription for sedation from the vet to be taken a couple of hours prior to leaving home, and this should make them slightly drowsy and calm – and will prevent the veterinary team from getting bitten or scratched during the examination or treatment as well.
Just remember to anchor your pet down safely for travelling, and once it’s all over, to soften the blow, magically producing a treat or two will hopefully wipe the memory for future trips!