Published on February 22, 2016
It is important that your feline friend have routine veterinary check-ups and exams if he or she is to stay healthy. But when faced with the thought of bringing your cat to the vet, is your first reaction to become stressed? This is true for many cat owners, but it does not have to be the case! There are ways you can help make a trip to the veterinarian one of calm and comfort for both you and your cat.
Choosing a Carrier
Carriers come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but not all are created equally. The best carrier for your cat can be soft sided or rigid, but should have access from both the front and the top. Multiple openings make it easier to coax a reluctant feline out of the carrier. When the top can easily be lifted off it also allows your feline to remain in the bottom half of the carrier for the majority of their visit, as this can help them feel safe and secure. Rigid carriers are often the best for this, and are preferred for trips to the veterinarian.
Getting your Cat In the Carrier
The first step in getting your cat ready to leave the house with you is getting him or her to love their carrier. If they view the carrier as a safe place before you ever try and use it to bring them to the vet, then it will be much easier once that day does arrive. To achieve this, the carrier should be available to them at all times so they become familiar with it. Leave it out in a warm and quiet place, preferably in your cat’s favorite room, so that your kitty can explore it on their own. If possible, leave the carrier out permanently or at least for a few weeks before your vet visit. Placing soft blankets, treats, and toys inside the carrier will help make it an enjoyable place. Cats love enclosed spaces. Think of what most cats do when confronted with an empty grocery bag – they climb right in! This curiosity can work to your advantage in getting them used to their carrier. There is also a product called Feliway, which is a feline “feel happy” pheromone spray which you can spray in the carrier to help the space become even more soothing and inviting. When your cat does enter the carrier, make sure to reward with praise or petting so they associate that spot with good things. Once your cat starts sleeping in their carrier you know the battle has been won!
Once your cat is no longer afraid of the carrier, make sure to occasionally open and close the door so they become accustomed to the sound. Also take the top on and off so they are not alarmed, always rewarding with treats and petting afterwards. It is also a good idea to occasionally cover the carrier with a towel, as this is a good way to keep them calm when you do use the carrier for a vet trip.
Going to the vet
When it becomes time to make the trip to the vet, make sure to leave the same bedding inside the carrier so everything remains familiar. Place your cat inside, and cover with a towel or blanket. You may even spray the towel with Feliway before placing it over the carrier to help your cat remain calm. Some cats may not like the towel over the carrier and would prefer to look out but most may become frightened by outside noises and feel more comfortable in a dark familiar place. Make sure to buckle the carrier into the back seat and not the passenger seat to protect your cat in case of an accident. Once in the exam room, your cat will feel much more secure as they are already familiar with and feel safe in their carrier.
Vet visits are an essential part of your cat’s healthcare. Fortunately there are ways to make these trips less stressful for you and your pet. We hope you’ll use these tips to turn your feline from a scared-y cat into a happy and healthy patient.