Making veterinary visits as stress-free as possible starts with choosing the right carrier and training your cat to think of it as a safe oasis.
The first step is choosing the best carrier.
For most cats, that is a carrier that is sturdy and made of impact-resistant plastic or fiberglass that will protect your cat. Your cat also needs good ventilation, so the carrier needs windows or holes. Your cat also wants the privacy that solid sides provide. Many cats like to have their carrier covered with a large towel.
We like carriers that have both a top and front opening. It is really hard to get a reluctant cat into the front opening of many carriers. How stressful for the cat to be shoved into that small opening! Wrapping the same cat in a towel and placing your cat in the carrier through the top opening will likely be easy and stress-free for the cat.
We also like carriers where the top half can be removed easily. Many cats prefer having their examination done in the carrier bottom. We like anything that keeps your cat happy!
Make the carrier comfortable by using washable bedding. The bottom layer should be slip free. A pet bed that fits the carrier is great. Towels or a fleecy blanket on top make it extra comfy for your cat.
Spray the carrier with the feline facial pheromone to help your cat see this is a safe and secure space such as Feliway. Feliway is available many places including at Earlysville Animal Hospital.
The next step is training your cat to the carrier.
Keep the carrier out and make it part of your cat’s normal environment. Place it where your cat likes to hide or rest. Make it welcoming and keep the door open. Put treats, catnip and toys in the carrier to encourage your cat to investigate.
Make getting in the carrier stress-free.
You are all set! You have the right carrier. It is comfortable. Your cat thinks it is a safe and secure place. Now to get your cat in it when you need to come to the animal hospital.
One of the things we have learned is to never chase a pet! It only increases the stress level. Instead, be calm and your cat will be calmer too.
Put your feline’s favorite things in the carrier – toys, food, or catnip. If your cat doesn’t go in by herself, make things easy for you to pick her up and place her in the carrier. It is best if she can’t escape to other rooms or get under furniture, so have doors closed and pick a room that doesn’t have a king-sized bed. Have a towel handy to place over her and wrap around her if needed. Have the top of the carrier open and place her in the carrier and close the opening. Remember to keep her comfortable when getting her into the carrier – no shoving or dropping her.
And the final step is making the drive as comfortable as possible.
Place the carrier either on the floor or seat belted into a seat. Have the temperature in the car comfortable. Consider playing “Through a Cat’s Ear” music for calming available at www.throughadogsear.com. Drive like you have fragile and precious cargo in the car so the ride is as smooth as possible for your cat.