Q: Our 17-year-old Scottish fold cat has never liked being in a carrier, but has always calmed down once we’ve reached our destination, usually the veterinary office where she goes for exams and sometimes for boarding.
The last time we boarded her at the clinic, we have reason to believe she was treated very unkindly by a veterinarian. After this experience, she hissed and growled the entire time she was boarded, and when she came home she continued hissing and growling for a while. This veterinarian had the gall to tell us this new behavior would continue and our cat would never return to her sweet self. He recommended putting her down!
Eventually, our cat calmed down. Meanwhile, we learned that due to complaints from staff and other clients, the veterinarian was let go. But our cat now hisses and growls at the vet’s office. How can we make these visits more calm, not only for medical check-ups, but also when we need to board our cat there? – D.W., Cyberspace
A: “Based on your description, I have no doubt that this veterinarian mishandled your cat,” says Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, of Chico, Calif. “But it’s also possible that the veterinarian didn’t consider your cat’s age, and so many elderly cats do suffer from undiagnosed arthritis, or there could be another explanation for pain.”
Colleran, a past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, suggests you leave the cat carrier out and periodically drop treats into it to positively condition your cat to the carrier.
Before visiting the veterinary clinic again, spray the carrier with Feliway or wipe the inside with Feliway wipes. Feliway is copy of naturally occurring pheromone which cats use to help them feel relaxed. Also, ask your veterinarian about a nutritional supplement called Anxitane (L-theanine), which can be an excellent stress buster.
You might also ask your new veterinarian about the veterinary practice becoming a certified Cat Friendly Practice.
Q: Over the past six months, my two older cats passed away. I want to get another cat as a companion for my loving – but very energetic – Blue-tick coonhound. Any tips on what age cat I should get? – S.R., Buffalo
A: I’m sorry for your losses. Younger kittens are generally incredibly open to new experiences, even if they come from big, clumsy, smelly ole’ canines. An adult cat could be fine, too, assuming the pet hasn’t had previous negative experiences with dogs. And assuming your dog, who is experienced at living with cats, knows the two rules for living with cats:
1. Never chase the cats (unless a cat initiates the chase).
2. Allow the cat to be king of the house. Cats feel more comfortable when they’re in control.
Q: Whenever I return home with a paper sack from the grocery, our cats hop inside, even competing to see which can get into the bag first. We stopped letting them do this because it’s the only time they fight. Any advice? – F.S., Livonia, Mich.
A: Always be prepared with one more sack than you have cats (unless you have a crazy number of cats). Therefore, if you have three cats and come home from the store with two sacks, go to your closet and open two more sacks. Your cats may generally get along fine unless they’re squeezed into a small space – so one cat per bag. If this plan doesn’t work out, you may have to recycle the bags before they become cat tunnels.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to email@example.com. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com.