I’ve been a vet for over 30 years and have been treating cats for most of that time. I have seen thousands of cats arrive in my vet surgery – they arrive in many ways:-in wicker baskets; plastic clothes-baskets with plywood lids; in their owner’s arms (definitely not recommended!); plastic covered wire cat baskets; and the commonest form of transport which is the plastic box with a door at one end.
I have just read a great article by a vet explaining the best ways to approach cat-handling. Cats are felines – not canines or humans – and this means they think differently, and we recognise they need different things. This vet reminded me that cats are territorial. They spend almost every waking hour exploring and checking their territory. Cats are making sure “their patch” is secure – that no other cats are thinking of making a land-grab. So, whenever we remove a cat from its territory, it has to be stressful. The cat becomes fearful and anxious. They fear their territory will be taken over whilst they are away. Their biggest fear is being taken to another cat’s territory – which often means a fight is coming… This is why most cats I see in the surgery are cowering at the back of the basket, or are hiding under the blanket. They can smell the other strange cats, and believe it or not, cats will always try to avoid a fight if they can. Especially on another cat’s turf. So they make themselves small, and they hide. They are hoping for the threat to be taken away. Or they are hiding until they can be transported back home.
This obviously doesn’t apply to every cat. I know cats that adore a visit to the vet or cattery, and they lap up the opportunity to be loved and cuddled by new people. Regard yourself lucky if your cat is like this. Not many are… There are many occasions when we have to take our cats to the vets. The vet surgery is the best place for thorough and rapid treatments and surgery. When we take our cats, we are balancing the stress of the visit against the benefit of good health.
We can make a trip less stressful by keeping the basket in the house for a few weeks. On the day, after putting your cat in the basket, drape a blanket over it so your cat can hide better. They will feel less fear. Pheromone sprays can help a bit too (get them from the vets). But ideally, a cat is always happier in their own territory – they are more contented and feel safer in their own home.
The Quietus Vet approach to helping a cat’s last moments be as happy and stress-free as possible uses the 3-Stage Technique. This is a sequence of three medicines which gently lead up to the final put to sleep – they avoid all fear, pain and stress. But just as important to me is the removal of travel-stress. Taking your cat on its final journey to a surgery full of strange smells and noises is totally unnecessary. If the decision has been made for euthanasia – however hard that may be – I think cats should be at home for this most important part of a their life.
I want pet euthanasia to be absolutely as good as it can be for cat and owner alike. So perhaps I should rename my Quietus Vet technique. Perhaps I should call it the 4-Stage approach – three medicines and one home?
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Thanks to Pamela Singleton FRCVS. Positive approach to cat handling. Vet Times. Jan 16 2017 Vol.47 No.2 Pg.18.