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You don’t skip important doctor appointments—and your cat shouldn’t either. Here’s why regular check-ups are important for your kitty, plus some tips on ensuring the most seamless vet visits possible.

As independent as cats are, it’s not a good idea to skip their regular check-ups. Cats tend to minimize symptoms of illness or pain; waiting for the vet to clue you in can cause your kitty undue pain and rack up a huge bill. Regular vet visits — at least once a year — are an opportunity for cats to get physical exams and weigh-ins, plus vaccinations and blood tests as needed. They also give you the chance to consult a trusted doctor and third party about your kitty’s food, oral hygiene, and any behavioral issues.

It’s no secret that going to the doctor isn’t fun, but for cats, who are easily frightened by new sights and sounds, it can be traumatic if not handled the right way. For easy transport, the key is TIME. Leave the carrier in a frequented room as though it’s a piece of furniture; cushion it with something soft, like a blanket, and leave treats or toys inside. You can even spray synthetic feline hormones, like Feliway, which have a calming effect on cats. As your cat grows familiar with the carrier, he will start to poke around and climb inside. Once he’s grown comfortable with that, start closing the carrier, for just a couple of minutes to start and then for increasingly longer periods, and pick up the carrier with your cat inside so he gets used to the sensation. If you have time to go for a short drive or subway ride, so much the better. No matter what, start this process weeks in advance — make it a part of everyday life for you and your kitty so that he has time to adjust to these big changes.

On the day of your appointment, consider draping a towel or blanket over the carrier so your cat doesn’t see and get distressed by outside events. Ensure that your trip is as smooth as possible, whether that means leaving the house a little early or taking a cab in lieu of the subway. Bring treats or food to praise your kitty’s good behavior, and once you’re in the exam room, let him ease his way out of the case. Try to schedule your appointments during quiet, mellow times, and make the most of your visit by observing your cat beforehand and thinking of questions to ask your vet. Remember: Preventive care is always more cost-effective than treating big flare-ups. and your furry friend is worth the investment. As always, we’re here to help.