My cat, Kayda, has been in my life and heart since the day he was born on April 2, 2006. I spent a lot of time with him and his siblings every day at a friend’s house until he chose me for his own by cuddling under my chin when I came to visit. He has been with me through everything since I was a teen. Through many ups and downs, moves, and boyfriends, he has comforted me in times of sadness and brought me so much joy. He has always been a one-person kind of cat and is a very independent guy.
Keeping him healthy and happy is very important to me, especially now that he is a senior cat. But when you have a cat like him that is scared or even aggressive for their veterinary checkups, things can be a lot more complicated. For a really long time, many doctors were unable to do a thorough exam on him or get blood work due to his fearful and aggressive behavior. He was so fearful that he would even lash out at me if I tried to help hold him for the doctor’s exams. Every doctor was very patient with him and tried to make friends, but he wouldn't have it. His fearful behavior made me feel terrible and stressed, both for Kayda and for the people trying to examine or handle him. Because of this, I avoided taking him to the doctor, which wasn’t what I wanted either, because I wanted to make sure that he stayed healthy.
Then I met a doctor that suggested we try a medication called Gabapentin to help his anxiety for vet visits. Gabapentin is a nearly tasteless, inexpensive medication that is commonly used in the veterinary field to treat pain. In cats, it is highly effective in reducing mild to moderate fear and anxiety, and it can increase compliance of cat owners for veterinary exams. For cats who won’t take oral medication easily, it can be given by mixing the powder from the capsule into a small amount of wet food or tuna juice.
Before I gave it to him for the first time, I was apprehensive; what if he still scratched someone? But I gave it to him two hours prior to coming in for his visit as directed and crossed my fingers. It was amazing! He was so relaxed and didn't care at all what the doctors were doing. We were even able to obtain a blood sample from him with no issues! He just laid there and ate the treats he was offered with no fuss. I was so happy and relieved. Now I knew I could bring him in for his semi-annual visits and not be worried for him or for the veterinary staff.
When I take him home after his visits, I just put him in the guest room in his bed, and he naps and relaxes until the Gabapentin fully wears off (I can even sneak in a nail trim during this time!). I was so happy with how this medication worked for Kayda that I recommend it frequently to owners who have similar struggles with their kitties and are looking for advice. There are a few other medications and supplements as well that can be used for cats who are showing signs of stress during veterinary visits. You can talk to your veterinarian to see which option is best for your cat.
Many cats hide their stress and can have a short and unpredictable tolerance for scary procedures in the clinic. Some cats don't immediately act out with aggression when they're nervous or fearful. Other common signs of anxiety or fear include:
• Dilated pupils
• Hunched posture or hiding
• Ears pinned back
• Increased vocalization
If you see any of these signs or if you have any questions or concerns about how to reduce your cat’s stress for vet visits, ask your veterinarian what they can do for you. It will make all the difference for both you and your pet.
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