Fractious cats are an inevitable part of small animal practice. A client's decision to return to your hospital for future
veterinary services may hinge on how the doctor and staff deal with these patients. In fact, your level of achievement in
the "art of practice" is seen vividly in your ability to deal with these difficult patients.
There are several general principles that need to be recognized: 1) A cat's behavior may change quickly. 2) Cats are territorial,
even in a hospital cage. 3) When in a strange environment, most cats become intimidated instead of aggressive. 4) Cat's
have defensive and offensive strategies, which you should recognize.
The first decision that must be made is whether or not the hissing or growling cat is bluffing or really serious. Although
this is usually learned by trial and several errors, there are some things that should be observed. Two of the most reliable
are the placement of the ears and the shape of the tongue. If the cat's ears are flat on its head and its tongue is rounded,
it is usually not bluffing.
The way a cat is approached in the examination room can determine how the cat will react throughout the visit. You should
begin by letting the cat smell your hand. Almost every cat will want to do this. Stroke the cat and talk to it in a high-pitched
voice. Picking up the cat before it is secure with its surroundings is not a good approach. However, if you do pick up the
cat do so with authority.
Removal of the cat from a carrier can be a difficult task. If it is done improperly, the borderline cat may become aggressive
or vicious. My favorite method is the "dump truck" or "gravity" method. Papers or towels are removed from the carrier.
Its door is opened wide, and the rear of the cage is SLOWLY tilted upward. As the carrier becomes nearly vertical, the cat
will slide out the door. When two front or two rear feet are on the exam table, the carrier can be lifted upward and the
cat will have no choice but to walk out.
Cats in hospital cages should be approached much like those in exam rooms. They should be allowed to smell your hand and
stroked before attempting to pick them up. Talking to the cat helps to calm it.
Identifying truly fractious cats can be easy or somewhat difficult. Pay attention to comments made by the owner; they may
be warnings in disguised.
One of the keys to proper handling is having the proper equipment. Several companies make a variety of restraint devices.
Some devices are designed for dogs and are inappropriate for cats since cats react differently than dogs. Be very careful
about putting anything around a cat's neck.
Cats can be restrained in various box-type devices. Care should be exercised in choosing devices. Be sure that the cat cannot
get a foot or its head caught as the panicked cat can cause severe damage to itself and those nearby.
The difficult, but not truly fractious, cat can be handled with finesse alone or with simple devices such as heavy bath towels
and cat bags. Other devices for minor restraint include a feline muzzle and the catch net.