Sometimes it may be necessary for your cat to stay at the veterinary surgery for a period of time to be treated for and/or recovery from an illness or surgery. This is often a difficult time for both the cat and his owner. A commonly asked question is if you should visit your cat while he is at the hospital.
I personally don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. There are several factors to consider.
How does your veterinarian feel?
First and foremost, speak to your veterinarian to see what he recommends. In most cases when I have had a hospitalised cat, the veterinarian has been happy for me to come and visit my cat, and in one case, recommended it because my cat was stressed and not eating, he felt it would benefit my cat to have a visit from me, and it did. Let your veterinarian guide you.
If he does suggest you come in, find out when the best time of the day is for you to visit. Ideally, it will be a time when your veterinarian or a nurse can spend five minutes with you, updating you on your cat's progress.
If the cat is in the hospital for a short procedure or stay, it is usually not necessary to pay him a visit.
How will your cat react?
You know your cat better than anybody else. Some cats will greatly appreciate a visit from the veterinarian. Sick and stressed cats are very prone to losing their appetite. A visit from their human family can be just what is needed to perk them up.
Some pet owners choose to bring a little part of home to the surgery for their cat. Maybe a blanket or a favourite cat toy. If the veterinarian says it's okay, they may bring in some food for your cat to eat too. When I had a very sick cat at the vet who was refusing to eat, I was allowed to bring in some cooked chicken and I hand fed him that. It was only a tiny amount of food that he ate, but it was a start. He was quite an introverted cat and was scared of strangers, so it benefitted him greatly having daily visits from me.
I find outwardly personable cats do much better in hospital. It is still worth a visit for you and for them, but not quite as important (in my opinion). We have a little Singapura cat who loves everybody. He had a one week stay in hospital when he broke his pelvis. He was the highlight of the practice, schmoozing all the staff who came to say hello to him.
In some cases, your cat will become stressed and upset when he sees you.
If you do visit your cat while he is at the vet, please don't overdo it. Remember he is sick and needs his rest to recover.
How will you react?
This is another important factor to consider. How will you react when you see your cat hospitalised? Some people can find it quite traumatic to see their loved one sick or injured. If you feel you can't cope with seeing a sick or injured cat, then it is better to stay away.
What happens during the visit?
Depending on how sick your cat is, and the premises you are visiting you will see your cat either in his cage (if he is very sick), in an empty clinic room, or in some cases, practices have a designated room for pets and their owners to spend time together.
You may be able to speak to the veterinarian, if not, I have found most nurses can give me an update on the progress of my cat and how well he is coping being hospitalised. Do understand though that they are often busy treating other animals so may not have a huge amount of time to speak to you. This is why I advise calling ahead, so you can arrange to come in during a quieter time of the day when the veterinarian or nurses may have more time to update you.
Depending on how your cat is, you may or may not be able to hold him. If he is still seriously sick and/or hooked up to lots of things, it may not be practical to pick him up. You should be allowed to open his cage door and give him a gentle stroke, though.
What to do when you visit?
It is generally preferred that you visit your cat a day or so after any major surgery. In the first 24-48 hours, he will be very groggy and sleep a lot. Here are a few guidelines for visiting your cat at the veterinary hospital.
- Firstly, call your veterinarian and make sure you are both on the same page. Try not to bring the whole family, I am sure children miss their pet too, but just keep it to one or two visitors at a time.
- Try not to show too much emotion around your cat, if you act stressed and/or sad, your cat will pick up on it. Be calm, confident and soothing, no matter how you feel inside.
- Make sure you visit at a time agreed with your veterinarian (unless he has said you can come in whenever you like). Remember that your cat won't be the only animal in hospital, so please be aware of other sick animals around you.
- Don't spend all afternoon there, keep the visit reasonably short (say 15-20 minutes).
- If you do want to bring some food treats for your cat, check with your veterinarian that it is okay to do so. I find cooked chicken breast to be popular with sick cats.
- A blanket or rug from home is also something that most cats will welcome. Veterinary practices are full of unusual smells and a blanket which reminds him of home can help to make him a little more comfortable.
If your cat is receiving radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, you will not be able to visit him during his stay in hospital. This is due to the radiation being excreted out of his body his urine. Once this has dropped to safe levels, your cat will be able to come home.