Does your cat hate going in their carrier? Does your cat shut down when they go to the vet? If so, you’re not alone. Unlike dogs, cats tend to be housebound, living most of their lives in a familiar place with familiar people. Think of how we socialize puppies: we ensure they meet lots of people, are exposed to umbrellas and vacuum cleaners, and go lots of places in the car. Dogs learn from an early age how to deal with various circumstances, especially travel in the human world. Compare that to a cat, who maybe only leaves the house once in a blue moon to go the vet. A carrier means getting car sick, going outside their comfort zone, and having terrible time getting poked at the vet.
This doesn’t have to be your cat! Chances are your cat wasn’t socialized to the outside world like a dog and they have now learned to associate the carrier with only bad things. Luckily, it’s never too late to teach an old cat new tricks.
Start by picking a carrier that is the correct size for your cat. They should be able to stand and move comfortably. Avoid soft sided carriers as people tend to wear them like purses—flinging the cat up and down with each step. Purchase a hard sided carrier that has a flip open lid or a clam-shell design. Never carry a carrier by the handle—we want to avoid swinging the cat all over and making the experience like a carnival ride. Instead, carry the carrier in both hands like you would a very expensive and delicate cake (keep the carrier level, walk slowly and carefully, etc.)
Always keep your carrier covered with a towel. A towel infused with stress reducing pheromones or calming essential oils prevents the cat from getting overwhelmed with too many sights and allows them to feel hidden. Once at the vet, keep the cat on a table or countertop if possible or in your lap. This prevents the cat from being exposed to stomping feet, sniffing dogs, and curious kids.
Next time, we’ll discuss training tips for how to teach your cat to go into a crate willingly!