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I have a cat that has injured his hind leg. And I have an appointment with a vet to get it examined.

The cat is a large, strong, outdoor Maine Coon. He's not going to be happy about me/the vet touching his sore leg. Based on past experience, I'm worried that the cat might bite and scratch me and the vet during the examination.

Is there anything I can do to prevent human injury from a large cat during a painful vet visit?


For example, I might put a e-collar on him to make it hard for him to bite me while I'm holding him. That seemed to work ok when the cat was smaller.

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I am a vet who sees a lot of cats each day.

To examine a cat who tends to bite or scratch, there are a few things I do commonly:

  • Go slow and gentle. Cats don't like sudden movement. Let the cat acclimatise to the exam room for a few minutes if possible. Avoid tugging them out their carrier - either let them come out on their own, or take the carrier apart to get them out.
  • E-collar (as you mention) is definitely the first step, and with this alone a lot can often be done. I like the soft e-collars that are easy to put on and tighten, and most cats will tolerate them fine for a few minutes at least.
  • Wrap in a towel. Obviously which part(s) of the cat you wrap up, depends on what part you want to look at. The main goal is to prevent flailing limbs and scratching. Some cats do well if you cover their head in a towel.
  • Get pain medication onboard soon after initial assessment, if appears painful. Often I will give a cat some pain medication, then wait a few minutes (or sometimes an hour) before examining closer, depending on how long the particular medication takes to take effect.
  • Sedation. It is often necessary to get sedation onboard to fully examine wounds or injuries. This is as much for my own benefit as the cat's. If x-rays are needed, especially for orthopaedics (e.g. to get good views of knees), sedation is often necessary. When possible, for aggressive cats I will often have the owners give a mild sedative such as gabapentin and/or trazodone at home, shortly before the appointment (knowing that I might have to give them a little more sedation once they arrive).

Every cat is different. There are some for whom there is no alternative but sedate as soon as they come through the door. If yours is one of those cats, definitely talk to your vet about giving a medication before the appointment to relax them.

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  • i just want to add this,the owner of a cat will often be the best solution to keep a cat calm during a visit to the vet,i have had multiple cats over the years and every single vet has told me your cat is very easy to handle(if i as the owner leaves things change a bit to put it mildly). Aug 19 '21 at 10:29
  • Can only agree with the answer. One of our vets used to put some creamy cheese on the cats nose and while they were busy licking it off the vet examined them. This can prevent many difficult situations.
    – SerenaT
    Aug 19 '21 at 12:34
  • My cats (BG and SV) are pretty calm as long as they can see/hear/smell me in the exam room with them. During COVID, I wasn’t allowed to come in, and the vet described them as “unusually violent” and refused to see them again without sedation.
    – StephenS
    Aug 19 '21 at 13:58
  • Thanks Harry. "Take it slow, take the carrier apart, use e-collar, and pain medication" worked well. (I used the largest collar I could find, a dog collar, which made biting impossible.) For what it's worth, the cat had an x-ray, which revealed a "complete leg fracture". The cat will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
    – Wilson
    Aug 19 '21 at 14:46
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    @Wilson Glad that the appointment went fine, but sorry it's a fracture. I hope the surgery all goes smoothly.
    – Harry V.
    Aug 20 '21 at 4:12

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