These stories are so common. How many times have you heard of a cat that is simply too aggressive at the vets office that it is just easier not to take the cat to the vets unless there is something seriously wrong?
Enter one of my feline patients: Ms. Luna. Ms. Luna is an 9 year old spayed female cat who has not seen a veterinarian in 4 years. At the last vet visit, the client experienced a mix of emotions as she saw her veterinarian enter the clinic room with the cat in a carrier and scratches and blood covering his face and arms. Needless to say, no one walked away with a good feeling that day!
Luna’s family moved houses and in the new house Luna remained confined to one room due to her tendency to urinate outside of the box. Luna’s mom reported that she thinks the confinement and stress of a new location and construction are adding to Luna’s behavioral issues because she is now showing aggression towards family members who enter the room. If someone enters she hisses and if they try to pet her she may bite. The mom is the only family member that she has not tried to bite; however Luna will hiss at her mom yet also rub against her and allow her to pet her.
Where to start?
Physical exam, blood work, urinalysis and urine culture . The question is how do we do this without getting hurt and without causing excess stress on Luna. With Luna I wanted to try to do a physical exam without any sedation BUT wanted to use sedation for any procedures like blood work. Many cats HATE restraint! When I first saw Luna my heart broke as she looked so scared sitting in her carrier. Seeing her body language I knew my first approach would be to take my time and go very slowly. I was able to do the exam in her carrier ( I took the top off – I did not dump her out or pull her out) and she did great! I was even able to give her an injection for sedation without her reacting at all. Once the sedation kicked in, we pulled blood and got a urine sample.
Results – Tuna had a rip roarin’ urinary tract infection! ( I’d be pretty grumpy too!)
After treatment with appropriate antibiotics, the aggression went away and she has returned to her nice, calm demeanor when family members or guests would enter her room.
Moral of the story: Many feline patients are just misunderstood. Many cats will do so much better if we all just take time and go slowly. If the cat starts to get very scared or reactive, we should not man handle them as that will simply make the next veterinary visit harder on everyone. Sedation is a great tool we have in veterinary medicine so take advantage of that tool!