Although we would like to think all of our patients love coming to see us, not all of them do. It can be stressful, and often times, cats learn to associate that stress with their carrier. Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use, as a cat parent, to alleviate the situation.
#1 - Leave the carrier out in the open. The best option is to make it part of your home where your pet can see it on a daily basis. To the cat, it becomes a piece of furniture - something they can lay on, or lay inside. Many cats will treat a carrier as a safe space if they can see it on a regular basis. For those families without enough room to have a carrier out in the open, then we suggest having the carrier out a week in advance of a known veterinary appointment.
#2 - Use pheromones. We suggest spraying, or wiping, your pets carrier with calming pheromones such as Feliway 10 to 15 minutes before putting your kitty inside. The pheromones will help to calm and relax your kitty both during the trip to and the trip from the vet.
#3 - Use a blanket on the inside of the carrier. A nice soft blanket will provide comfort and an additional place to hide. In addition, you can also spray the blanket with pheromones. As an added benefit, if your kitty has an accident on the way to, or from, the vet, it won't escape the carrier and make a mess of your car. We also recommend a non-slip surface/pad under the blanket to provide your kitty with more stability while standing.
#4 - Be patient with your pet. Put some toys, or catnip, in the carrier and leave the door open for a while. Often times a curious cat will be easier to place in a carrier than one who is anxious. If at all possible, don't shove or dump your kitty into a carrier as this will only create additional stress. We recommend carriers that open at the top and allow easy entry for your four legged (and often times stiff legged) companion.
#5 - If you truly have a carrier phobic cat, use some trickery! For patients afraid of the carrier we don't recommend forcing them in. In addition to the stress, you could also accidentally injure your kitty (or yourself). In a separate room, place your kitty on a blanket and wrap him/her up loosely like a burrito (but leave the head exposed - similar to swaddling a baby). Then, gently slide your kitty into the carrier while supporting his/her belly.
#6 - Choose the right carrier for you. We recommend carriers with openings in both the front and the top. It is also useful to have one that is easy to clean in case your kitty has an accident. Select a carrier with privacy - not only will your kitty feel safe, but it will reduce motion sickness during transport. Finally, select a carrier that is aesthetically pleasing and one you won't mind leaving out in the open.