Help Your Cat Love the Carrier
It’s every pet parent’s nightmare: you open the door after a long day at work to find your cat is sick. You try to coax them into the carrier, but it’s not working. If this sounds like an experience you’ve had, know that you are not alone. Cats never forget – at least not when it comes to the carrier. If you only crate your cat when transporting them to vet appointments, they will quickly associate the carrier with those experiences. While we at Andes-Straley Veterinary Hospital strive to provide the most comfortable environment for our patients, it is typical for them to be nervous. We have put together a list of three ways you can help your cat love their carrier.
USE THE CARRIER FOR FEEDING TIME
If you have an appointment, prepare your cat for the carrier by feeding them in it for several weeks leading up to the appointment. While your cat may be hesitant at first, after a few days they should be comfortable walking all the way into the carrier. It may help to remove the door initially and to place the food close to the entrance at first, gradually moving it deeper into the carrier with each feeding. On appointment day, put a small handful of their favorite treats in the back of the carrier. When your cat goes inside to eat the treats, gently close and lock the door.
TAKE YOUR CAT FOR SHORT CAR RIDES
As we mentioned earlier, cats will associate the carrier with unpleasant experiences if they have only been in it when going to the vet. One way to alleviate some of your cat’s carrier anxiety is to create low-stress memories of being in the carrier. Put a soft blanket or towel at the bottom of the carrier with some treats in the back. Once your cat is inside the carrier, secure it safely inside your car for a short and slow ride around the neighborhood. If your cat has anxiety in the car, playing some soft classical music may help them to relax. Be sure that you do not leave your cat unattended in the car, especially in hot weather.
OTHER ALTERNATIVES FOR HIGH-ANXIETY SITUATIONS
Some cats may still balk at the carrier even after training. In these situations, it’s best to try to make your cat as comfortable as possible whenever they have to use the carrier.
- Pheromone spray may help relax your cat in the carrier. Pheromones are naturally-occurring chemicals produced by the body that modify behavior. The pheromone spray can be misted inside the carrier a few minutes prior to placing your cat inside.
- Some cats with high-anxiety may benefit from having a larger carrier that they can move more freely inside.
- When picking up your cat to put in the carrier, firmly hold their back legs and body against your chest. You can try putting them in back-first or having a friend hold the carrier upright and gently lowering them in from above.
- If none of these tips helps to ease your cat’s carrier anxiety, talk to us about prescription medications that can be given prior to travel.
We hope that these tips will help your cat learn to love the carrier. To schedule an appointment or discuss further options for your pet, contact us.