Most cat owners experience some degree of difficulty when transporting their cat to the clinic and we are frequently asked for advice on ways to make the journey less fraught for everyone.
Indeed we are often told by owners that they have been putting off routine vet visits as they find it so stressful to get their cat into the carrier.
Don’t wait until you have a visit booked imminently to the clinic: you can start helping your cat straight away!
Cats find it very stressful to leave their territory and the surroundings they are used to.
Anything you can do to bring a sense of familiarity will help them feel more in control of the situation:
Get your cat used to the cat carrier
Cats learn that the carrier is something to be feared as it only appears when a trip to the vets is imminent.
- Leave the carrier out at home in a quiet but accessible location with a comfy blanket inside so that your cat has the opportunity to familiarise themself with it, and may even adopt it as a sleeping area or secure hiding place.
- Hiding a few kibbles of food or treats at the back of the carrier for your cat to forage will add to its appeal.
- Spray the carrier with Feliway© spray (available from the clinic) a synthetic pheromone that cats find comforting.
If you have to take your cat to the clinic quickly, and do not have time to acclimatise your cat to the carrier
- Use your cat’s familiar blanket or bed in the bottom of the carrier. Your cat’s scent will be transferred onto them, which is very reassuring to them.
- Try gentle persuasion to encourage your cat into the carrier – some tasty treats or a favourite toy.
- ‘Reversing’ a more unenthusiastic cat through the front of a carrier, placed on a table, is often effective.
- If your cat is very reluctant to go inside the carrier you can calmly wrap them in a towel and place both the cat and the towel inside the carrier.
- It is helpful to use Feliway© as above
- Never travel with your cat loose in the car.It may seem like a better option to avoid the dreaded carrier altogether, but a panicked cat will often try to run away and could become lost or injured.He or she could cause you to have an accident while driving, if unrestrained.
A suitable carrier for your cat.
It is worth assessing whether your current carrier is strong and secure enough, or whether you need to buy a new one.
Cardboard carriers are just not up to the job and broken hinges, clasps and clips can render the carrier unsafe or an escape risk; a carrier that is too large can also cause your cat to become unstable and fall over, as well as being difficult to carry.
Features to consider when choosing a new carrier:
- Openings in the front and on the top to help easy entry and exit
- Separate bottom and top sections so that the top section can be lifted off.Cats can remain in the bottom section for examination by the vet . This can help them to feel calmer and more secure and is helpful for putting your cat into the carrier if your cat has an injury.
- A carrier with solid sides, rather than mesh, helps to conceal your cat and give them more security.A mesh carrier can be covered with a large towel or blanket to give privacy.
- The carrier should be strong, durable and easy to wipe clean.
The clinic stocks good quality cat carriers that meet the above criteria.
Whatever design of carrier, it is really helpful to bring a blanket or towel from home to use as a partial cover during the journey and wait in the waiting room – not only does it provide visual privacy but it also carries the reassuringly familiar scents of home, which is very comforting to your cat – who has a much more acute sense of smell than you! Opening the carrier once in the car or the waiting room, to reassure your cat may seem like a good idea, but a scared puss will often escape, and in an attempt to find a safe hiding place become even more stressed or injured.
It is wise to withdraw food from your cat a few hours before travelling, if possible, to minimise the possibility of an upset stomach. In case of ‘accidents’ it is a good idea to line the carrier with polythene, newspaper and an absorbent bedding material, such as a towel. It may also be advisable to cover the car seat to protect it from any moisture that may leak out of the carrier.
When securing the carrier in the car, use the seat belt and make sure the carrier is horizontal and not sloping down to the back of the seat. Many cars have sloping seats and it is necessary to pad the back in order to prop up the carrier so that it is level and your cat can maintain its balance. Some cats like to see where they are going and a booster cushion can help give the carrier sufficient height to enable this. Other cats most definitely prefer not to look out of the window – only by trying each method can you ascertain which your cat prefers, so it may be advisable to do a dummy run or two.
Drive slowly, which means allowing plenty of time for the journey, taking traffic into account – such as rush hour and the school run, and making sure you know where you are going if it is your first visit to the clinic. By being in control in this way your own stress levels will be managed which will have a positive knock-on effect to your cat. Maintain a relaxed and normal demeanour, even if your cat becomes distressed and do not try to reassure them – as tempting as it may be to do so. By trying to comfort your cat you may convey the impression to them that there is something to be anxious about.
Finally, if, despite all your efforts, your journey is still less than perfect please don’t feel anxious or disappointed. It is likely that your cat just needs more opportunity to get used to travelling and that this will improve over time. Once you arrive at the clinic we will do everything we can to relax and reassure your cat, which will hopefully reduce the negative association your cat has built up with travelling and the vets.