A trip to the boarding kennel, groomer or even veterinarian can be a stressful event for many pets. Inevitably, there is always a degree of unpleasantness for the pet associated with these visits, as the end result are baths, vaccinations, being separated from their families or other procedures pets would rather avoid.
Owners, as well as the staff at these facilities, must take extra care to minimize the stress put upon pets during these visits, and do everything possible to counteract the unavoidable ‘bad things’ pets come to expect from these trips. One important step is to make your pet’s arrival at these facilities immediately produce something he enjoys.
As you walk in the door, talk to your pet in a happy tone of voice that communicates this is going to be a fun experience, and avoid anxiety ridden ‘poor baby’ voice tones. Use the word that signals to your pet he is going to get a treat (cookie, biscuit, etc.) and give some to staff to offer to him. This may be more difficult with cats, but a little bit of canned tuna dropped through the door of a carrier often works wonders.
If you bring your cat in a carrier, make sure any wire or see through parts are covered to prevent your cat by being frightened by the sight of unfamiliar things. It probably helps for such facilities to have separate entrances for dogs and cats, but if this isn’t possible, ask if you can immediately take your cat to an examination room, or put him in his own cage. Otherwise, consider leaving him in your car (weather permitting), until staff is ready to take him.
Perhaps the most helpful things you can do are frequent socialization visits. Take your pet to the groomer, kennel or veterinarian so that he can get to know the staff, and become familiar with the facility without being left there or anything unpleasant done. Staff can greet him as described above, give him special treats, or play with him briefly and then you return home.
These visits help to compensate for your pet’s prediction that these places always mean ‘bad things’. Staff should be happy to accommodate you as it makes your pet easier for them to handle and care for.
By Suzanne Hetts and Daniel Estep
Rocky Mountain News
Drs. Hetts and Estep can be contacted on the web at www.AnimalBehaviorAssociates.com or by phone at (303) 932-9095