How to Reduce the Stress of Getting your Cat to the Vet
Most cats love to play in boxes. Why then, is it so hard when it comes time to go to the vet to get your cat into a box?
Your cat associates the carrier with travelling to strange places – usually the vet or to the cattery. Other than these times the carrier usually lives up the back of the cupboard or gathering dust in the garage.
How to get your Cat comfortable with their carrier:
The first step in getting your cat used to the carrier should ideally happen when they are first brought home as a kitten. The carrier should not be hid away and should ideally become a regular resting place. For a carrier that has been used previously be sure to clean thoroughly with a non-toxic cleaner and leave out in the sun for 24 hours. This will help to remove any stress pheromone left behind from last use.
Leave the carrier in a room where the cat spends a lot of their time. If the door can be removed, do this, so that the cat does not get accidently trapped inside. Place a familiar blanket or towel inside of the carrier too. Using Feliway® spray on the bedding inside can help your cat to feel at ease in the carrier. Feliway® is a synthetic version of a pheromone released by cats which helps them to feel more at ease and at home in an environment. If your cat goes to investigate the carrier or sits near it, give them a treat. You need to get them to associate the carrier with favourable events. Put treats inside the carrier to encourage them to go inside. It also helps to play with them near the carrier, using a toy on a string, forcing them to touch and be near the carrier while they are in a happy mood.
It may take several weeks for your cat to become comfortable around the carrier, but keep persisting and keep rewarding good behaviour.
What if you need to get your cat to the vet right away?
Getting your cat used to the cat carrier is all well and good if you have time to do it. Sometimes, you need to get your cat to the vet in a hurry and have not thought about how to get them used to their carrier. Here are some tips on how to get a reluctant cat safely into their carrier without causing too much stress to you and your cat.
- Firstly shut your cat in a room with minimal hiding spaces. The laundry or bathroom is often good for this.
- Then go and get the cat carrier. Pre-spray the bedding inside with Feliway®
- Try and coax your cat in to the carrier using toys, treats or their favourite food (unlikely to work but worth a try).
- If your carrier opens from the top or if the top can be removed, cradle your cat so that all legs are tucked under and place in the carrier. Use one hand to put pressure on their back while you place the top back on. If your cat is very worked up and aggressive, you can use a towel (sprayed with Feliway® to assist you.) Lay the towel flat on a table or floor and gently wrap the cats’ legs up, leaving their head out and then place in to the top of the carrier. This can also be used if your carrier only opens from the front, placing the cat back end first into the carrier.
- If your carrier only opens from the front, you can cradle your cats legs underneath them and place them in backwards (using your hands and arms as opposed to the towel above).
Always try and work calmly and swiftly when handling cats.
The ideal cat carrier is one that can be opened at one end and also be pulled apart at the middle. Have the top of the carrier easy to remove means that for nervous cats or cats in pain, they do not have to walk out or be pulled out of the carrier. The vet can often do most of the examination with the cat sitting in the bottom half of the carrier which often helps to make the cat feel more at ease.
Make sure the cat carrier and sturdy and stable, and the right size for your cat as an adult. They should have enough space to turn around but not much more. The bottom of the carrier should be lined with an absorbent material, puppy training pads are ideal, otherwise newspaper or a towel.
While travelling in the car, it is important that the cat carrier is secure. The carrier can be secured using the seatbelt or placed on the floor in front of the seats. It may help to cover the carrier with a towel or blanket, especially when moving from the house to the car and from the car to the clinic.