From the Editors of The Daily Cat
For a cat to feel fully comfortable around humans, it must be socialized -- or exposed to positive, human-related encounters and experiences. These should ideally occur before the age of 9 months. If kittens don’t become imprinted with such events early on, veterinarian visits may seem alien and frightening. That’s when your pet’s fight-or-flight response kicks into high gear.
In the short term, your cat needs its rabies shot and other health care treatments. Some veterinarians bring in an assistant who can hold the cat by the scruff of its neck and/or wrap a towel around parts of the cat while the veterinarian administers vaccines. Sedating a cat can lead to health risks, so you may wish to find a veterinarian who handles feral and otherwise unruly cats in another manner. Hospitals associated with local Humane Societies often deal with a wide variety of cats, so consider contacting these facilities first. Just remember that sedation will allow a more in-depth examination of your cat, and could potentially identify health concerns that might now otherwise be picked up.
In the long term, gradually socialize your now-adult cat. When grooming, for example, buy a soft-tipped brush and very gently run it across your cat’s fur, approaching from behind so your cat does not see you reaching over its head, which can appear threatening. Stop to offer praise and treats. Allow your cat to associate grooming with rewards and other pleasantries. It will take time for that association to become fixed in your cat’s memory, so please be patient with your skittish friend.