Getting Cats in Carriers – Reducing the Stress of Travel Including Vet Visits: Some cats don’t quite know what to make of us. First we show them affection, then we give them a shot or do other annoying things, then we show them more affection. If a cat arrives already stressed out, that doesn’t help at all. Everyone involved wants a cat’s visit to the vet to be as mellow as possible, and this starts with a positive carrier experience. Here’s one strategy, positive familiarization.
Pets like what’s familiar and distrust new things – especially new things that are bigger than they are. Let your cat learn to recognize the carrier as a familiar and even positive place.
• Leave the carrier out in a room frequented by the cat.
• Place familiar, soft bedding in the carrier. Better yet, use bedding that has your scent on it.
• Put treats, catnip, and/or toys inside the carrier to encourage them to enter it willingly. At first, you may notice that the treats disappear overnight, and that it takes more time before they are willing to enter the carrier while you’re watching.
• The process of positive familiarization can take weeks. Start well ahead of time. Keep the rewards coming.
• When getting your cat to enter the carrier, avoid measures that increase the stress: chasing, herding, getting stressed out yourself. Staying calm and in control is best for keeping your cat calm, too. If you need a reluctant cat in the carrier now, try this insertion method. Turn your carrier so the door faces up. Pick up your cat like you normally would, then hold your cat’s back two legs. While supporting your cat, slide him or her head first into the carrier, letting go of the back legs last. Removing all opportunity to struggle reduces the stress compared to having a real fight over it.
• If all else fails, reconsider your carrier. Of course, there are many theories and options on this: smaller, larger, top loading, removable doors, hard shell, soft shell, doubles as a cat bed, 2-piece, etc – it’s all out there.
• Another calming strategy while at the vet is to bring a towel or something to cover your carrier. If your cat is stressed out by the unfamiliar sounds and smells of the vet office, he or she may be happier hiding. Covering the carrier can give your cat a sense of hiding.