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Pet Ways to Ease Stress
with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D. & Jack Murray

Penelope’s Sneaky Maneuvers for Avoiding White Coat Stress

Ever since I was a tiny kitty living in that miserable shelter, I hated going to the vet. No matter the color of the vet’s coat, all that prodding and poking during an office visit unsettles my normal sense of aloof calm.  Afterward, I always have to endure some awful medicine in my eyes, ears, nose or mouth. When I had a bad reaction to a vaccination, I meowed, “That’s it!  I protest! No more Vet!”

Resist the Bait

Since my vow to avoid the vet, my owner, or my human as I like to call him, tries all kinds of silly tactics to lure me into going for an annual checkup. Believing that I’m a fool, he pours a few of my favorite kitty treats into my food dish. Immediately, I come a runnin’ when I hear that delightful sound. As I head around the corner, I spot that dreaded cat carrier, which can only mean one thing – an imminent trip to the vet. Then I see my human sitting a few feet away from my kitty treats.

Stopping dead in my tracks some ten feet away from my human, I ponder my dilemma – a classic avoidance-avoidance conflict. Either I go for the treats, and risk getting shoved into that cat carrier, or I walk away from my beloved treats. Hmmm . . . tough call.  After careful deliberation, I walk away. When my human follows me, I sprint like a bat out of . . . the attic.

As I listen to my human’s phone call to the vet’s office in which he explains that my appointment must be cancelled because I can’t be caught, I purr a sigh of relief.  When my human hangs up the phone, I run to my dish and relish my treats.  He grunts with frustration!

Escape the Fate

I refuse to reveal how my human catches me on his second attempt to haul me to the vet because I don’t want to give other owners any ideas. Trapped in that prison cat carrier, I am hurled into the front seat of the car.  What’s this? Somehow the catch on the carrier door is loose.

Boom! I make my escape out of the garage.  My human closes the garage door to stop me, but I’m too quick. In fact, waiting for the door to reopen, he loses sight of me.  It’s so much fun to watch him call my name and entice me with cat toys.

Finally, he promises “Okay! You win Penelope. I won’t take you to the vet.”  After I hear him call the vet again on his cell phone to cancel my appointment, I let out a loud meow. Only then does he see me behind the bush in the front yard, where I have been hiding all along.

On the third attempt, my human calls his SWAT team of friends to capture me and escort me to the vet’s office.  While perched on the examining table waiting for the vet to arrive, I espy a missing tile in the office’s drop ceiling. One easy jump and I start roaming in the rafters.  It takes three of the vet’s staff members to retrieve me. Boy, was that vet mad.

The Real Lesson in Easing Stress

Close to exhaustion, I reluctantly submit to the vet’s poking and prodding. Truth be told, the examination wasn’t really all that bad after all. Then I reflect, “Maybe I built this up to something much bigger in my mind than it really was. Maybe, it’s better just to face your fears instead of avoiding them.” Carl Jung, the noted Swiss Psychiatrist and close follower of Sigmund Freud, said, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Perhaps he is right. I will prevent a lot of stress if I stop avoiding the situations that stress me out, and deal with them sooner, perhaps with a little help from my human.

It could be argued that I have a phobia of vet examinations. Certainly, early bad experiences could instill a phobia. However, I think I was just being stubborn and rebellious. In the case of a true phobia, it is better to be exposed to the feared situation or stimulus gradually.  Click on link below for information on exposure therapy.

Hope you can learn from my experiences. Meow! My human just brought home some fancy shopping bags filled with designer clothes. Time to indulge my curiosity.

Jung Carl, Psychology and Religion. Yale University Press, 1938. Print.

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Penelope’s Sneaky Maneuvers for Avoiding White Coat Stress

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2018). Penelope’s Sneaky Maneuvers for Avoiding White Coat Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Nov 2018
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