Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cat Wrangling, or Adventures in Taking Two Cats to the Vet

Last week, I took my cats to the vet for their annual vaccines and check ups. It was quite the experience, let me tell you. Most non-cat owners might think to themselves, What's the big deal? It's just like going to the doctor, only involving cats.

But those of you out there who have ever owned a cat know that taking any cat to the vet is at best an exercise in frustration, and potentially an exercise in futility.

It's bad enough if I have to take one of the two, but can leave the other at home. But those days when I have to deal with both of them? Oh my. Let me just share the ordeal with you so you can get a better sense of my stress level.

My adventure starts about three hours before the visit to the veterinarian's office. That's when I get the cat carriers down from where I store them. (Yes, I've heard all the conventional wisdom about leaving the carriers out all the time, so they aren't scary for the kitties, and so they can explore and curl up and sleep in the torture devices. I don't have room for that.) Why three hours in advance? It takes about that long for the initial fear that comes from the carriers being down before my cats have calmed down enough they'll come out from wherever they are hiding.

As soon as they see the horrid things (and really, how scary are they?), both cats dart for the closest, deepest, darkest hiding spot they can find, and they stay there for as long as they believe it is necessary to avoid confinement.

While they're getting that out of their system, I move on to Phase Two.

What is Phase Two, you ask? That's where I organize all of the other required items and put them in a single, easy to get to location.

Included in Phase Two: Dakota's anti-anxiety medication, pill pockets to put the pill in, more treats, a laser light, pheromone spray for inside the carriers, and sometimes other toys (depending on just how freaked out the two cats are).

This time? They were Very Freaked Out.

An hour before the vet appointment, I have to give Dakota her anxiety medication. It's also a mild sedative, which we give her in the hopes that she won't bite another vet tech and in turn send the poor vet tech to the hospital. (Yes, this has happened. Dakota Does Not Like The Vet. For good reason, mind you. She's had more painful experiences at the vet in her two years than most cats have in a lifetime.)

With about 30 minutes to spare before the visit, I dose both carriers with some of the pheromone spray, to help keep the cats calm. It's not a miracle worker, but I can promise it helps some.

About 40 minutes after Dakota has been dosed up with anti-anxiety meds, I know I have to wrangle the cats. Kiki must be caught first, because if I start with Dakota, Kiki will have found a place to hide which I will NEVER get her out of. So, I lure Kiki out of hiding by shaking the treat bag, give her a couple of treats, and scoop her up before she wises up and darts away. Into the carrier she goes, and then it's off to snag Dakota.

As she gets older, Dakota is getting a little smarter about these things. Here's where I found her that day--under the bed, right next to the wall, pretty much directly in the center. The bed is a queen. There was NO WAY I could reach her in that position.

Hence the need for the laser light.

I broke that puppy out and got her to chase it. Sadly, even though her desire to play was strong she knew something was up, and so she didn't make catching her very easy. Lucky for me, she is still a little dumb about the places she chooses to hide from me most of the time.

Why do I say that? One of her favorite places to escape is into the bathroom. All I have to do is follow her in, close the door, and she's cornered.

Granted, I still have to carry her out of the bathroom and get her into the carrier, which more often than not means I end up with a few new scratches. (I later discovered that not only did I have a bunch of new scratches on my hands and arms, but my shirt had about a dozen cat claw sized holes. Note to self: Trim her claws about two days before the next vet visit, please. Kthxbai.)

But finally, I managed to catch both cats, get them in carriers, and take them to the vet.

See? Here they are.

We will not mention the horrified cat cries I am forced to listen to in the car the entire way to and from each vet appointment. It would hurt Kiki and Dakota's dignity to reveal such a thing.

Once we arrive at the vet, it's always up for debate as to which one we should start with: the scared but sweet cat (Kiki) or the scared but potentially mean cat (Dakota). Usually, Dakota is up first, so we can get her ordeal over with and put her back into the carrier. It's always amazing to me how easily they go in once we're at the vet, when it is a three-hour endeavor at home.

Here's Kiki in her carrier, trying to search out an escape route for once she's freed from her cage. She spends most of her time at the vet trying to make herself as small as possible, so hopefully no one will see her. It hasn't worked out for her yet, but she keeps trying.

 Maybe someday, Kiki. Don't give up.

Dakota, on the other hand, spends most of her time hissing and growling at vet techs, and then trying to escape.

This time, she seemed to think that no one would find her, despite her growling, as long as she hid under the bench.

Lucky me, I got to crawl down on the floor to pull her back out time and again, because she'd dart down there every time they finished with something.

At least she didn't bite anyone on this trip. Yay, Dakota! Progress.

We can only hope to have a similar result on each subsequent visit. Cross your fingers for us.

During Kiki's exam, they found a mass that was a little bit worrisome. Because of that, we had to do another test, and she wasn't allowed to get back into her carrier right away. That didn't stop her from trying to do precisely that, though.

When she couldn't figure out how to get into the first carrier, she tried the other one. Frankly, any carrier would do if it meant not getting poked and prodded any more.
Sadly for Kiki, she didn't find a way in before they came back to do her other test. We're still waiting on the results, but at least she got to come home afterwards. And, as long as the results are good and neither cat gets sick in the meanwhile, we don't have to go back for another vet visit for six months. Whew!

I think it's safe to say that all three of us will be glad of that.

Do any of you have any great ideas for how to make vet visits easier on my cats and me? Do dogs dread going to the vet as much as cats do? Anyone want to volunteer to come do it for me in six months?

**Originally published at Lady Scribes**

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