Fear free vet visits for cats? We have you covered!

Did you know we are a Cat Friendly Clinic? 

Bringing a cat into the clinic can be a stressful event for both cat and owner. Getting the cat into the carrier, traveling in the car away from its home, being handled by new and strange people, and being in a building that is full of new sights, smells and sounds can all be very stressful for a cat. Stress and fear are obviously unpleasant emotions for a cat to feel, but longer term it also negatively affects them in many other ways including:

  • Increased susceptibility to disease
  • An increase in pain felt by a cat
  • A negative affect on healing and recovery time leading to longer hospitalisation
  • Some clinical diseases that are caused by stress such as feline idiopathic cystitis
  • Abnormalities in blood tests and other physiological parameters can be caused by stress, such as an increased heart rate, high blood pressure and elevated temperature

By reducing the stress felt by a cat in the consult we are able to more accurately diagnose disease and perform procedures more efficiently and effectively.


By being a cat friendly clinic.

The “Cat Friendly Clinic” idea is an initiative started by the International Society of Feline Medicine designed to help alleviate the stress felt by cats and owners in the vet clinic. There are three levels of accreditation – bronze, silver and gold – that each have different requirements needing to be met in order to achieve accreditation. These requirements include:

  • Minimum consult lengths
  • Separate cat-only consult rooms and reception areas
  • Staff who are confident in handling cats in a fear free manner
  • Ongoing staff training are all taken into consideration when a clinic applies for Cat Friendly Accreditation

Here at Gawler Animal Hospital, we are proudly a Gold Accredited Cat Friendly Clinic. As you may already be aware, we have a dedicated cat reception, a cat only consult room, and a cat ward separate from the dog ward. We have diffusers of Feliway running in our rooms. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone designed to help alleviate the stress felt by cats and kittens. We also have a cat tree and a pot of catnip and cat grass in our consult rooms, both of these help cats feel more at ease. All our vets and nurses are confident in handling cats in a fear free way, and Dr Michelle and Nurse Bethany are currently undertaking further education in feline medicine and nursing. You can be confident that your kitties are in the best hands when they come to Gawler Animal Hospital.

How can we make visits more cat friendly?

The cat’s experience actually starts before you have even arrived at the clinic. Cats should be brought into the clinic in an appropriate carrier that is fully enclosed and robust, never with the cat loose in the car. A plastic carrier is easy to clean in case of any accidents en-route, and is sturdy enough to hold even the most determined of cat. Top opening carriers are also ideal, as lifting a cat in and out is much easier and less stressful than trying to force them through a door at the front. If the carrier has a wire lid, placing a towel over the top can give them a place to hide and reduces fear in the car.

Once you arrive at the clinic make your way over to the dedicated cat waiting area and place them either in one of our cat cubbies or on the chair next to you (cats prefer to be up high!). If your cat is particularly stressed, or you would be more comfortable, we are able to put you straight into one of the consult rooms to allow your cat to explore and acclimatise to the room before we start the exam.

Once everyone is ready, we will examine your cat where they feel most comfortable. This may be on the table, the ground, in their carrier (if it has a removable lid), or ever on our cat tree! We adopt a ‘less is more’ attitude to handling for exams, which most cats prefer – but this does not mean your cat is not being thoroughly examined. We are also a scruff free practice. While scruffing used to be commonplace, it is now known that scruffing actually increases the anxiety and fear felt by cats, and is an uncomfortable and even painful method of holding them.

We do everything possible to help keep visits to the vet fear free. However, some cats may still be too scared to allow us to do what needs to be done. In this case there are medications available that can be given to the cat before coming into the clinic that help to relieve this anxiety. Feel free to discuss this with one of our team members if this is something you think might be beneficial for your cat.

If you have any questions on how you can make the vet visit a less stressful experience for you and your cat, feel free to speak with one of our team at any time.  We look forward to welcoming you and your cat into our clinic soon!

Written by Bethany Smeaton, Our cat-loving registered Vet nurse (Currently studying her ISFM Feline nursing certificate), For more kitty cat spam you can follow her on instagram @beth_thefelinenurse 


Picture of Anne Crouch

Anne Crouch

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Gawler Animal Hospital

Your full-service, high quality, locally-owned veterinary practice.

Offering a wide range of pet-care options from vaccinations up to complex medical and surgical treatments.

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