Submitted by Beth Massey
Office Manager at Case Veterinary Hospital
Most cat owners are aware of the â€śninja likeâ€ť skills needed to successfully get their cat into a carrier when it is time to go to the vet. The following tips might help the process get easier with time. Ideally, carrier training and desensitizing should start during â€śkitten-hoodâ€ť, however training can start at any age.
Choosing the right carrier is always important. Most veterinarians recommend a hard sided carrier with front and top entry. Most importantly, it should have an easy to remove top portion for ease of access during vet visits. No one wants to drag a scared cat out of its carrier. Simply removing the top and letting the cat stay in the bottom portion of the carrier during the exam offers a lot less stress.
Acclimating your cat to the dreaded carrier is a slow but important process. Cats will get used to its presence if it is left out in the home at all times. Place it in a comfortable area of the house in which your cat already frequents. The door should remain open with a soft blanket or bed inside. Try feeding your cat in the carrier and offer treats and bits of food when your cat willingly goes inside. Praise them!! If your cat likes catnip, place some inside the carrier along with some favorite toys. This will encourage your cat to get comfortable with it.
Feline Facial Pheromone is also something that we recommend using during travel or any stressful situation. When a cat feels safe and comfortable in its environment, it rubs its head against the furniture, the corners of walls or the bottom of curtains, leaving a substance called the facial pheromone. This pheromone is specific to cats and conveys a message of security, reassurance and well-being. A product called Feliway comes in a spray formula which allows owners to apply it to a towel or bedding inside of a carrier. Studies have shown that this works best when sprayed 30 minutes prior to travel.
Placing a towel over the entire carrier during travel can also help alleviate stress to your cat. The carrier should be placed in the back seat where you can easily strap it in with a seatbelt. Be sure that the radio is off and the windows are closed to reduce noise. The temperature inside should be comfortable and you may even have to start the air conditioning or the heat before placing the cat inside the car. Start with small trips around the block using these techniques and end with praise and lots of treats once you get back home.
Following these guidelines will help reduce stress for both of you when your cat goes to the vet.