Leaving your beloved Kitty for an overnight stay at a veterinary clinic can be an extremely emotional experience. As one of our cat forum’s members notes, it can be hard to tell if this is more stressful for the cat or the owner. As with many crises, planning and preparation can go a long way towards stress relief for both of you.
When Do You Have to Leave a Cat Overnight at the Clinic?
An overnight stay is usually required following operations where a body cavity is opened. More complex surgery may require longer stays. Even routine operations may require longer stays for some cats; age, overall health, temperament and response to confinement are all taken into account when your vet recommends hospitalization.
Another factor at play is the owner’s ability to administer proper post-operative care. For example, when owner and vet feel that a necessary course of medication cannot be administered at home, they may decide the cat is better off at the clinic where a vet tech can pill it.
On occasion, an owner may prefer to leave the cat overnight to save them the stress of traveling back and forth to the vet’s office on consecutive days; or it may be more convenient to bring the cat in the previous evening, when a procedure is scheduled early on the next morning.
And finally, cats that need to be quarantined following biting episodes can sometimes spend their confinement period in a vet’s clinic rather than in the pound.
While there are various possible scenarios for a feline to stay overnight at the clinic, in most cases, the cat in question has suffered from illness or trauma and an alarmed owner has to deal with the added stress of separation.
Your Cat’s Stay at the Clinic
Veterinarians often set up their own protocols, based on their own experience and adjusted to deal with the conditions in their clinic. Moreover, specific conditions relevant to your cat may affect the way your vet conducts the stay. If there’s anything about the medical procedure or the hospital stay that you feel unsure of, discuss it with your vet beforehand.
In a recent discussion on our forums, members have shared from their experience and offered advice about that difficult time when you have to leave your cat alone in the clinic. Here are some issues raised, that you may want to discuss with your vet.
Is the Clinic Staffed Overnight?
Our forum member Jennyranson shared a tragic story with us, where her cherished Napoleon was left at a clinic following a poisoning and died overnight. Along with the tragic news of his death, she was also informed that Napoleon spent his last hours alone. “It had never occurred to me that there would not be an assistant on duty. So he died alone, in a strange place and in pain”, she shared in the thread.
Unlike people’s hospitals, not all veterinary clinics have medical stuff on hand at all hours. Some places are left empty once business hours are over, with the animals left in their confinement cages on their own for the night. This may not necessarily affect the quality of medical care provided, but if you feel it may, or if the cat is in a poor condition, you may want to discuss this with your vet and in some cases consider going to an all-night clinic instead.
Will the cat receive adequate attention while confined?
Arguably, some cats may prefer less attention when in pain and away from home, and in fact some may even get aggressive and resent being handled by unfamiliar people. However, if your cat takes to strangers, she or he may benefit from extra attention.
This may be more important during longer stays of several days/nights in the clinic and it’s something you may want to discuss with your veterinarian in such situations. When a cat is in quarantine for a longer period of time, petting and grooming may become essential, and you should look into officially adding grooming sessions to the cat’s care routine.
Can You Bring a Little Piece of Home with You?
While you can’t make the clinic cage feel like home, you can help make it just a little bit less intimidating. Many cats find comfort in familiar scents of their home, so a used shirt or blanket may help your cat adjust. Owners sometimes bring along a favorite cat toy, but keep in mind that a sick or injured feline may simply ignore a toy, especially when in a strange place. If your cat has a favorite blanket, it may be a better choice.
As always discuss this with your vet and make sure that the clinic’s hospitalization protocols allow for these items to be introduced to the cat’s cage.
Can You Visit Your Cat?
Ask about visitations if your cat is to be hospitalized for more than a day. Some vets advise against visits because they feel the cats get confused by seeing the owner only to be left behind again. They claim this may actually add to the feline’s stress level.
Other vets welcome visits and encourage them as they feel the presence of a familiar person helps put the cat at ease. In longer stays, you may want to try and see how a visit affects both the cat and yourself and then set up a visitation routine.
Going Back Home
In many cases, owners are required to keep a course of medication at home following the cat’s release from the clinic. The vet may ask you to confine the cat as well, to prevent extra movement. Listen carefully to the instructions and ask to have them in writing if needed.
Ask as many questions as you need, and make sure you have a phone number where you can ask more questions, including an emergency number. If you think you may not be able to administer the required medicine, ask about at-home visits by a vet tech.
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