Friendly Orange County Cat Clinic

If you are looking for a cat friendly clinic to take care of your kitty, Newport Harbor Animal Hospital is the cat clinic of choice.

A huge concern in the veterinary profession is the reduction of cat visits. This is caused in large part due to the stress involved with the travel and visit to the cat clinic. The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Feline Medicine published Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines in 2011.

At Newport Harbor Animal Hospitals we love our feline friends and take these guidelines very seriously. We want to avoid needless stress on you and your kitty which might stand in the way of reaching out to have the best veterinary care. This will help to ensure a long and healthy life for your cat.

We will address issues such as difficulty getting your cat in the carrier at home, driving to the clinic and dealing with your fearful cat at the hospital. We want to educate you about respectful handling if a cat to avoid stress and minimize fear. This starts at home and continues throughout the entire process.

The information below is derived from the Feline-Friendly Handling Guidelines. We thank the AAFP and ISFM for this wonderful information.

Understanding Cat Behavior

Cats are innate hunters. They need to have an outlet for this behavior. It can also be a component of play for them. Because of this they may be distracted on a trip to the cat clinic with a toy that mimics hunting. This could include toys on wires or toy mice for example.

Cats are solitary hunters by nature. They avoid fights with other cats. They tend to distance themselves from other cats or hide. Because of this cats are more comfortable hiding when responding to danger or stress. Keeping this in mind, many cats are more comfortable in the car or in a hospital setting by being allowed to hide under a towel or in their carrier.

When cats interact socially you will often notice them showing affection by rubbing and grooming one another around the head and neck. Most cats prefer touching in this area. If they are touched in other areas they may become upset.

Recognizing Fear 

At Newport Harbor we strive to alleviate fear and anxiety in your cat. One of the first steps in doing this is to develop the ability to recognize signs of anxiety and fear. If signs are recognized early measures can be taken to reduce the fear and anxiety before there is an episode of fear aggression in the cat.

Signs of Fear

  • Ear position
  • Body posture
  • Tail movement
  • Changes in the eyes and face
  • Sweating from the paws
  • Changes in vocalization
  • Distress meowing
  • Growling
  • Hissing
  • Spitting
  • Freezing
  • Self grooming

Preparing for the Visit

If possible it is great to rehearse trips to our veterinary hospital. This is done by providing rewards for appropriate behavior. Have a large number of tasty treats on hand!

It is important to avoid punishment for bad behaviors. This may result in aggression.

The physical exam can even be mimicked at home. Handle the paws and ears, open the mouth, feel the legs and body. During this exercise be sure to reward your kitty with treats. This is a time where massaging the neck or chin may also help. Remember, this is a natural behavior for your cat.

Cat Carriers

One of the issues we face at Newport Harbor is in many cases the only time the cat sees the carrier is on the day of the visit. They are also forced into the carrier.

By taking the time to train your cat to comfortably enter the carrier at home stress is greatly reduced.

The following steps may be helpful:

  • Make the carrier a familiar part of the furniture at home
  • Place soft comfortable bedding in the carrier
  • Use treats, catnip and toys in the carrier as positive reinforcement
  • Consider using pheromone sprays 30 minutes before leaving to calm your cat
  • Encourage your cat to enter the carrier voluntarily
  • Secure the carrier on the floor of the car or by a seatbelt
  • Cover the carrier with a towel

When You Arrive

When you and your cat arrive we will do everything possible to minimize stress. We will start by greeting your cat by name in a calm and soothing voice.

We will make every attempt to have everything we need pre-prepared to minimize the negative effects of gestures and noise.

We will go slowly because your cat will feel more comfortable.

We will open the door to the cat carrier when we are talking to you at the beginning of the appointment. This will allow your kitty to come out if it is comfortable doing so.

If the cat is still in the carrier at the end of the conversation we may quietly remove the top of the carrier.

If the top of the carrier doesn’t come off we will reach in slowly and gently while supporting the abdomen move your kitty out. If there is resistance we may use a towel to cover it to decrease the anxiety of coming out into the open.

We hope you bring in a towel or favorite bedding and will allow your cat to be place on it for the exam. The familiar smells are helpful.

We will handle your cat based on its response. Usually we will start by gently petting the head and neck. If your cat is nervous we will cover it partially with a towel. All of this is taking advantage of a cat’s normal behavior in response to stress. If you bring along some favorite treats or toys we are happy to use them.

We will choose an exam room that has less traffic and they are always thoroughly cleaned for health purposes but more importantly to your cat to minimize odors from other animals. This goes a long way towards a happy, safe, comfortable visit for your pet.

Our doctors at Newport Harbor Animal Hospital have decades of collective experience and dedication to the health and comfort of our feline friends. We want you to be as comfortable as possible when you bring your cat to see us. Please call, we are here to help.

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