Help me help my mean cat!
March 13, 2008 4:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to deal with a "mean cat" as far as vet visits and administering medication?

My cat is absolutely insane about physical contact outside of her control. In the past, I have told the vets this, but they are hesitant to sedate her, and say, "Oh well, let's just see how it goes." It ends up being an absolute nightmare. She goes "fight or flight," and in the past she shredded a vet tech's arms.

Does anyone have experience with sedating cats before vet visits? Is there a health reason to avoid this? Of course there is also the issue of it being impossible for me to administer any sort of sedating agent (pills, liquids), even if she is scruffed and even if more than one person is involved. Which brings up the question of how pet owners give medication to their "difficult" pets. Any experiences with this?
posted by unknowncommand to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered trimming your cat's nails before handing her over to the vet? It'd probably help a lot.
posted by interrobang at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, if only I could.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:23 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

My vet had something called a Cat Sack. It was kind of like a kitty sleeping bag. He would zip her up in it with her head sticking out and the claws contained, and then he would administer the shots.

My cat was still mightily angry over the whole experience, however, she was not able to shred any arms.

As far as administering meds, I find that pills concealed in tuna are usually consumed.

If your vet isn't really even getting to examine your cat, you might save some $ by just taking her to the walk-in vaccine clinics that are offered by places like PetsMart. You just show up and pay only for the vaccines.
posted by Ostara at 4:26 PM on March 13, 2008

Another method is using this stuff called "Good Cat". I get it at Petco, and it makes my cats very very chill (you need to start dosing them a few days beforehand, though). It's all homeopathic n' stuff.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:27 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Gah...I meant to mention - administering the chill-juice is easy - just add a capful to the kitty water.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:29 PM on March 13, 2008

Giving pills to cats is usually a pain. However, last time one of our cats needed medication, the vet gave us Pill Pockets, and they worked wonderfully. We actually had to shoo the other cat and the dog away at pill-time because they wanted some too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:40 PM on March 13, 2008

My cat is seldom aggressive, except at the vet. I've found that vets who scruff her confidently have great success. If you're not convinced by the cat-in-a-bag solution, maybe you could try to habituate the cat to being scruffed. For those that don't know how, here's a guide.

With respect to administering medication, you should check with the vet if it's acceptable to crush the particular pills (also double check the bottle). If so, roast chicken or turkey coated with powdered pills will be consumed in haste, and is pretty gentle digestively, which may also be a consideration.
posted by Jakey at 4:44 PM on March 13, 2008

The main ingredient in handling this situation - is for YOU to be calm, cooing, loving and reassuring. Because......your kitty will be picking up on your vibes and incorporate that into his/her stress level and that is something you do not want as it is counteractive to good health. Next - you must dose. Dose you and dose the cat with - Bach Rescue Remedy. 2-4 drops under your tongue and a few drops squished with the dropper into kitty's mouth. That should chill you both out and render the cat calm and cooperative. Pet, sing, nuzzle, speak gently, softly mash kitty's ears, say to kitty: *It's ok. don't be afraid. Everything will be ok.* and just keep that mantra going and you will see - everything ~will~ be ok.

Take care.
posted by watercarrier at 4:59 PM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: As far as vet visits go, all you can do is warn your vet that your cat will potentially get aggressive, and let them decide how to proceed. I worked as a vet tech for years, and if an owner told us their cat was testy, we took EVERY precaution [wrapping kitty in a big towel, wearing thick leather cat gloves]. Don't be embarrassed, I swear 90% of cats go nuts in the vet, and I have the scars to prove it. Just be honest, and if they chose not to act it's their own fault, tbh.

For medication, I would suggest a Pill Injector or hiding in food as suggested earlier. If you ever do have to medicate, wrapping kitty in a bath towel may save you some bleeding scratches. And as a side note, your vet may not choose to sedate your kitty before the visit, as animals under sedation are sometimes more likely to bite/scratch when they are uninhibited.

Good luck, and thanks for a question that allowed me my very first mefi post. :}
posted by tryniti at 5:13 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My cat goes nuts at the vet, and the sedatives we were given in the past to administer at home had no effect. (She also attacked an emergency vet once after having been given two different sedative injections and then proceeding to race around the room vomiting. Nice.)

She's indoor only, so for a number of years, I reduced her vet visits to every few years for the basic necessities. I actually called around and spoke to various vets about how they would handle her before picking my current vet because my past vet got all squirrelly about reporting her to Animal Control for biting.

In the past, we tried to make a go of it with early morning appointments so she wouldn't see any other animals in the waiting room and so on. She's practically impossible to get out of the cat carrier and I don't think anyone has even dared to get her into towel or cat sack.

She's older now and has had some health problems the past year, so what happens is my husband takes her in (I get too stressed.) He tells the people at the front counter that the cat is vicious and untreatable. Somehow he makes them take it seriously (I can't manage this.) And then they sedate the cat with gas in the carrier right off.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:26 PM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: My old cat was an absolute hellion at the vet. They actually had an anesthetic tent for her. They'd put her in and pump gas inside and she'd go to sleep. For routine things like claw clips they had leather gloves that went up between the elbow and shoulder so she could claw away without hurting anyone.

As far as getting them to take you seriously, I used to ask what my legal liability would be should my cat injure one of the vets. It made them realize I was serious when I said my cat was mean.

I also tried Rescue Remedy but neither of my cats responded to it. However, my mom has had some luck with it. So YMMV.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:35 PM on March 13, 2008

Some apothecaries will dispense medication in tuna-flavored mixture or even make it transdermal (you rub it on kitty's ear.) It's usually more expensive but if you need to medicate the cat now or in the future as she ages, it's definitely worth looking into. Look for an apothecary rather than a pharmacy.

I have a soft carrier and I just leave my cat in it under a towel. He feels safer and the vet conducts most of the exam in the carrier and administers shots there. I only pull him out for a visual inspection or if he needs blood drawn. The kitty wrap thing sounds cool. I learned early on how to hold a hostile cat (fingers on my left hand looped around back feet so they're constrained, head tucked firmly into my chest with my right hand with my right fingers constraining his front paws.)

I hope you find something that works. Good luck!
posted by red_lotus at 6:42 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

i medicate my cat by crushing the pill with a mortar and pestle and then mixing it in with a dab of baby food.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:17 PM on March 13, 2008

I am surprised no one has mentioned the kitty burrito method for pilling. Simply put, wrap cat entirely in heavy towel so head sticks out and legs are contained. One person holds burrito, one person pills cat. Cat is released and runs off pissed, doesn't stick around to claw at your eyes.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 PM on March 13, 2008

Rescue Remedy, like all homeopathics, works via the placebo effect and is therefore ineffective in cats (except insofar as belief in it reduces the owner's cat-noticeable stress levels).

Our cat has to be wrapped in a towel just to get her into the cat carrier; once she's actually at the vet, she's usually resigned to her fate. Sounds like yours probably needs actual drugs, though. Don't waste your time or money on homeopathics.
posted by flabdablet at 7:35 PM on March 13, 2008

I had a cat the would kick and squirm out of any kitty burrito you tried to wrap her in.

Eventually, I found that kneeling on the floor with the cat crouching between my knees worked best. I could use my legs to help restrain her, she wasn't on her back (which freaked her out more) and it was relatively easy to tip her head back to push the pills down her throat. It was easy to massage the throat to help with swallowing too.
posted by aedra at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2008

Working as a vet tech, we had a client that would bring in about 10 wild barn cats every year for their vaccinations. She had each cat in a pillowcase, with the top knotted. We would feel the body position of the cat still in the bag, locate the spot we wanted, carefully untied the bag exposing only the surface area that needed attention. Worked great every time. When one the cats needed to be pilled, she would ground it up in some liver cheese back at the barn and feed it to the one cat.

She made her appointment by the day, call us when she had all of the cats bagged. As she pulled up to the clinic, we were waiting for her. Helped bring in the "screaming bags" put her straight in a treatment room and begin immediately. She would peek at the fur and know which ones needed more than vaccines. We could usually get her in and out within 20 minutes. Actually it was kind of fun, when we were finished unharmed (us and cats), it was high five's for everyone.
posted by JujuB at 8:46 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

The scruff thing mentioned above really works for me for my one cat who goes just nuts with the vet. I have to hold her very firmly (but not cruelly or roughly - and she's very young and resilient, I would have not felt it was acceptable for some of the older, frailer cats of my past). She doesn't like it and she fights but it does subdue her to the extent that vet exams are possible.
posted by nanojath at 9:31 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. christinetheslp, I really have wondered what my legal liability was to them, and also theirs to me if they somehow damage the cat while trying to restrain it. Ugh. Let's just say that she acts nothing like this.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:49 PM on March 13, 2008

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