Ask Einstein: The Vet Visit

Cat crate

Dear Einstein,

My mom’s stalking me with the evil carrier again. As soon as I saw it, I turned into David Copperfield and disappeared. Don’t tell her I’m hiding inside the turkey roaster under the kitchen sink.

I’ve seen this horror movie before. She wants to shove me in that little box, where I’m going to puke my breakfast up all over a towel she hasn’t washed since the Clinton administration. If that’s not gross enough, I’ll also empty all my other orifices. The vet, who obviously starred in that movie Psycho, is going to shove something cold up my butt and punch pointy things into my skin. Can’t they just once take me to see something fun like The Birds?



Hey Hitchcock,

If someone stuck something up your mom’s bum every time she got in the car, she’d want to stay home, too.

From time to time kitties gotta go to the vet. Even if you’re not sick as a dog, you should go see your vet once a year, twice a year if you’ve taken more than eight trips around the sun. Your mom, the vet and his evil minions need to do a better job of making you feel safe.

If she doesn’t own one, tell your mom to “just say no” to borrowed carriers. Forced into another cat or dog’s his territory and being surrounded by his scent will make you want to reach for the Prozac. Speaking of anxiety, instead of Prozac, your mom can help you stay calm with some Bach Rescue Remedy available at any health food store. She doesn’t have to pry open your mouth with a crowbar. She can put a couple of drops on the back of your ears and gently massage it in. It’s absorbed right through the skin.

Remember the saying, “You can catch more kitties with tuna than vinegar”? It applies to vet visits, too.

I bet you’d appreciate your mom replacing that unsanitary towel with a t-shirt she’s worn around the house. Her scent inside the carrier will calm you. Mom should modify the way you look at your carrier. Instead of only bringing out the vet transportation device just before you have to endure a torture session with your friendly DVM, she can leave it out all the time with the door open. You might even like hanging out in it from time to time if you found treats and your favorite toys inside.

Beside treats, toys, and sweaty t-shirts, spritzing some Comfort Zone with Feliway on the carrier’s interior wall will help transform the nefarious transportation cube into a calming hiding place in which to catch some Zzzzzs.

If the carrier still feels more like the Island of Dr. Moreau and less like the Sea of Tranquility, Mom can avoid the struggle and simply slip a pillowcase over you. Believe it or not, we kitties find the dark more comforting. Once you’re in the pillowcase, she can slide you into the carrier. A towel thrown over the top will help you feel like you’re in a safe little cave or a turkey roaster. (Your vet can even put keep the towel over your head during his examination you so you’ll still feel hidden.)

Rather than driving you around only when you have to go to the clinic, Mom should take you around the block and give you a treat. Or maybe she can take you to Petco or PetSmart where the associates can “ooh” and “ah” over you and can give you some treats. On a dry run, Mom can drop by the vet’s office long enough to play “trick or cat treat” with the vet techs. If the techs have time, they can take you into an exam room and let you chase your favorite bird toy around. When you have to go to the vet for real, you’ll already have a couple of allies.

To prevent all of your bodily fluids from escaping, hold off on lunch until after you return home. If you still ralph every time you travel, your mom can talk to the vet about medication for motion sickness.

To make the whole vet visit more tolerable, your human might want to look for a Cat-Friendly Vet. The staff is trained to understand that we kitties have different needs from dogs. When it comes to vet offices, segregation is good. I’m not talking black and white kitties; I’m talking about keeping pusses and pooches separate. Cat-Friendly vets may have dog-free appointment times, special dog-free waiting areas, or maybe they’ll just zip you right into a cats-only examination room without having to listen to or smell Lassie. They also know that less is better when it comes to handling kitties. You can find a Cat-Friendly practice by going to

A cats-only vet or a mobile vet coming to your home would probably keep your whiskers more at ease, but if you go to a multi-pet-ual vet, Mom should ask to wait far away from the terrorizing Terrier and barking Beagle. If there’s no special cat room, sit as far away from the pooches as possible and keep the towel covering the carrier. Even if a genial dog wants to make friends, Mom should ask the owner to keep him on a short leash.

Mom can warn the staff and the vet up front about hearing, eyesight or pain issues that might make you testy or fearful. Seniors probably have joints that creak like rusty hinges. So she should point out the achy places, before you feel obliged to notify them with your fangs. Mom can ask the vet or office manager if you can be handled by the vet tech who’s best with kitties. They’re all trained to work with cats, but let’s face it, some have better cat-side manners than others. If the vet tech tries to drag you out of the carrier by your scruff, mom should offer to show her how it feels. Afterward, she should undo the bolts and disassemble the carrier. You can even hang out in the bottom half while they check you out. That way you feel less vulnerable.

Although everyone should take note of what a handsome guy you are, they shouldn’t stare at you. People think staring is a compliment, but if they’d studied Felinese they’d know that kitties stare at each other as a threat or a display of dominance. And, there should be a nix on calming you down (and BTW, you are entitled to your panic) with “Sshhh.” That may be comforting to babies and stupid Spaniels, but to dudes of our persuasion it sounds like another cat hissing at you. And that’s NOT a friendly greeting.

Even though you don’t want a stranger to hold you, the vet tech should restrain you during the uncomfortable parts. That way Mom won’t have to take the blame for the shot and the glass suppository. Besides the vet tech knows how to avoid your impressive teeth and claws.

Speaking of tooth and nail, no one should punish you for trying to protect your posterior. But they shouldn’t reward you for flexing your mouth muscles by growling or hissing. If it’s okay with the vet, Mom can reward you for tolerant behavior or distract you with treats.

At home, your mom could do some of the same weird things the vet does so you won’t be as scared. She can buy a cheap stethoscope and listen to your heart occasionally. Better still, she could do a monthly exam, where she touches you all over and takes your temp. Not only does this help you get used to being handled inappropriately, it might help her catch diseases early on. And if your mom is checking out your unmentionables, then, when a stranger takes liberties with you, it won’t be such an invasion of privacy. Personal assaults should always be followed with lots of praise and your favorite treat (unless the vet says you’re too sick.)

While the trip to vet is no walk in the park (maybe it’s more like a walk in the dog park), it doesn’t have to be a horror movie. A handful of treats, a cat teaser and some patience on the vet tech’s part, it can turn the A Nightmare on Elm Street into a cat fantasy like Willard.

About the Author

Dusty Rainbolt, ACCBC is's editor-in-chief. She is past president of the Cat Writers' Association. With three decades of animal rescue under her collar, Dusty has rescued and rehomed over 1500 cats. She's author of Kittens for Dummies and Cat Wrangling Made Easy. Her new paranormal mystery, Death Under Crescent Moon, can be purchased to benefit your favorite charity at