Spring is in the air and we all know what that means …. Kittens!
At 9 weeks old most kittens will come into the clinic for their examination and first set of vaccinations. For most kittens this would be the first trip to the clinic. Many kittens can find this a pretty scary experience.
For most families the perception is that a “good trip” to the veterinary hospital starts when you walk in the front door but it actually starts the very first day a kitten comes into his new home. One of the biggest limitations when a veterinarian is doing a physical exam is the cat or kittens stress level and how they respond to that stress. Especially in kittens we can easily work with them and train them to minimize this stress. If your cat is older you can do the same techniques to retrain them but your pace should be much slower.
Mojito is going to help us demonstrate how to get your kitten used to being handled right from day one. This is done by slowly stroking your kitten’s body, especially the sensitive spots. Instead of going straight for the feet you would start at the shoulder and over the course of several days slowly work your way further down the legs until he was ok with having his toes touched. The same goes with slowly working your way from the forehead to the ears. There is actually a pleasurable pressure point close to the tip of the ear so with some practice many cats learn to love having their ears stroked.
Remember to always keep your sessions short and positive, praising your kitten as you go along. For training purposes a positive session that lasts less than a minute is more productive then a 5 minute session with your kitten fidgeting or trying to get away. By doing this kind of handling before your kitten comes in to the hospital for their physical exam when the Doctor goes to look into his ears and mouth it was not associated with any fear. These kittens can be so comfortable during their examination we have to distract them from playing with a bit of food.
Carriers can also be a big source of fear and stress for cats. In most cases the carrier you purchase when your kitten is little is the same one he will have right into their senior years. With this in mind you should purchase one for the size your cat is going to become. We recommend the hard plastic carriers with a top and bottom that will easily come apart. These carriers allow for easy access but also provide some protection for your cat in case of an accident.
Always make sure your carrier is out in one of the busy rooms of the house – like a living room or bedroom. Have a fuzzy blanket and a couple of toys in the carrier to make it nice and cozy. In the beginning you can place treats or your kitten’s favorite toys in the carrier to encourage them to go into it on their own. When you get ready to make that first trip in the car make sure they have something familiar in the carrier with them. This can be the same blanket they have been using for a few days or a favorite toy.
If your kitten is especially timid you may also want to familiarize them with the sounds and feel of the car before the big day. Keep the same idea in mind as when you started handling, short but positive is best. The first couple of times you may only be able to open the front door, then the next time get in the car, then the next turn on the car but don’t go anywhere and so on and so on.
For his next adventure Mojito will be demonstrating how to keep the veterinarian on their toes during a physical exam.
Written by Angelina Johnstone RVT