Preparing for an In-Home Visit for your Cat

How many times do you receive a reminder from your veterinarian for vaccinations or any other care for your cat before you schedule the appointment, dust off the cat carrier, fish the cat out from under the bed or behind the couch, stuff them in the carrier, haul them to the car, put in ear plugs, drive to the veterinary hospital, wait your turn for the exam room, put up with all kinds of noise –barking dogs, screaming children—none of which your cat is used to, and then reverse direction after paying the hefty bill for the honor of a 10 minutes conversation with your veterinary professional. Was that rewarding? Would you like to rethink how you care for your cat?

Alternatives in cat care: In home visits are so much more fun for almost everyone, including your cat.

When given the choice between being stuffed in a carrier, yowling all the way to the clinic, either curling up in a unresponsive ball or turning into the Spawn of Satan when getting a rectal temperature taken, and then yowling hoarsely all the way back home, and of course not coming out from under the bed for another 24 hours OR having a strange person invade your space, most cats choose the later. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is faster, quieter or easier but that depends entirely on whether you have properly prepared for our visit—even more so than the nature of your cat.

In the Ranch House world, we know that a veterinarian and technician showing up on the doorstep doesn’t always bode a favorable experience for every cat but there are lots of things that we and you together can do to make the outcome much more agreeable.

  1. It sounds terrible but it really works! Confine your cat(s) in an easily accessible space where they have little room to hide—a bathroom usually works pretty well. The idea is that if they don’t have to be chased or pulled out from underneath a couch or bed they are much more welcoming of attention. Calm will reign and they get a chance to learn that even if they have to take be given a vaccination or have a blood draw, the perks of having a chin scratched or ear massaged is so much more rewarding.
  2. We are a little more unique that most house call practices. We do not make an animal enter a veterinary care van—we conduct the examination entirely within the home. Everything that can be done in an examination or treatment room can be done at home—drawing blood, an ear mite examination, a skin scraping, a fine needle aspirate to assess a tumor on the skin, a cystocentesis (going directly into the bladder with a needle to obtain a sterile urine sample for evaluation—sounds terrible but is almost always well tolerated); bandaging, vaccinations, eye examination and blood pressure determination (particularly helpful at home rather than at the clinic!)
  3. Be prepared that the home visit is not likely going to save you any additional time—we take our time with each patient and if they need more care than the average joe-kitty we make absolutely sure they are comfortable before we proceed. Please make sure you have not booked us to come when you are pressed for time to get to your next event.
  4. For particularly anxious and/or aggressive cats, the more history you provide us prior to our visit is beneficial. For example, if everyone within a 500 mile radius has sworn off coming to your home to trim your kitties’ toenails because of the ferociousness with which they respond, please let us know! We have ways to calm cats during handling and yes, sometimes that means a reversible sedation if there is no way around it. Please help us to come prepared with tools that will help keep them safe and comfortable and limit risks to our staff.
  5. Allow your cat to be handled in that small space by the technician and the doctor without necessarily having you present. In some instances, cats will risk everything to get away if they feel that Mom and Pop are sympathetic to their plight. So rather than bonding with the individuals in their immediate vicinity, they look for some way to get away—and that is distressing for both the owner AND the cat. By no means would we ever ask you to leave while we are examining your cat but we will ask you not to reach out and touch your cat if they are behaving in a fractious manner as that may lead to injury to you and we do not want the kitty to be angry with you for days on end. Most often a quiet observer several feet away is best option.
  6. We don’t require much from an owner, typically we work from a kitchen table, a desktop or a countertop (we will always sanitize surfaces after our visit) and we use a mat to protect surfaces that might be marred by cat claws and to keep the patient comfortable. A BIG FLUFFY towel is often handy for those cats that are anxious—you will be amazed at what can be accomplished with our gentle handling.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Make sure the cupboard doors cannot be opened from the outside otherwise we will be pulling your kitty out of a mighty fortress—worse than from under the bed—and this creates more anxiety for the cats. A rubber band works great to prevent cats from opening doors—(insert picture here). Just don’t forget to put the rubber band away out of your kitty’s reach when we are finished—otherwise we might be called back to remove a foreign body (the rubber band) from your cat’s stomach or small intestine (ewww!).
  2. rubberband

  3. If your cats are quick to anger and they are with a buddy—no matter how friendly they ordinarily are to each other, they will turn on each other and possibly hurt each other if they are stressed by the presence of a stranger. We have seen this usually in an instance when one cat begins growling and the other cat takes offence and retaliates (also called redirected aggression).
  4. Please let us know if you or your pets have any food allergy or aversion issue as we do often reward cats (and dogs) with treats for good behavior (OK, yes, it is bribery—but it works!)
  5. Ignoring these suggestions for confinement will almost always result in more anxiety on the part of everyone involved. Unless the cat is remarkably and undeniably social and happy to see us we will often be required to charge the house call and examination fee to you and reschedule the appointment for another day and yes, there is a house call fee the next time we visit too. We absolutely refuse to contribute knowingly and unnecessarily to a cat’s anxiety—it’s tough enough to make up and be friends after a blood draw!

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