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    Cat Carrier Stress – Tips to make a carrier a cat-friendly place

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    Updated: May 16, 2018

    Cat-carrier-stress-vet-visit.jpg


    Putting "Love" In This Hate-Hate-Relationship

    Ok, so your cat doesn't like getting inside their carrier. But before you label your cat stubborn, consider for a moment that the only time you pull the carrier out of storage is when you're heading to the vet's office. And chances are those visits are not for routine wellness care (like annual check-ups), but for when they are "off" or sick. It's hard to imagine any of us wanting to get inside of our cars if getting behind the wheel every time meant a trip to the dentist!

    ...that quick "carrier to car ride to vet visit" is typically
    when they’re already not feeling well

    Carrier-Car-Veterinarian.png

    So it's really not surprising they don't like their carrier, and that your “carrier dance” usually involves a struggle with your cat being “placed” in facing backwards, and you with scratches on both arms. Sound familiar?

    Steps to Getting Your Cat Used to their Carrier – Before Going to the Vet

    Fortunately there are a few simple steps you can take to help make that a less stressful experience … for you both. 

    • Make the carrier part of their environment — Ideally keep their carrier out in their environment all the time, rather than squirreled away in the basement or garage. This can be in the living room, a bathroom, near where they sleep, or wherever they spend a lot of time. It's not recommended to start by putting it near their food or litter box (see next point below for why). Once they're used to the carrier you can experiment with different places throughout your home. There are also many fun ways to incorporate a carrier into your environment.Cat-carrier-home-design.png

    • If you don't have their carrier out all the time, then take it out several days before their scheduled veterinary visitThis will give them at least a little bit of time to adapt to it and “settle down.” Don't put it near where they eat and/or go to the bathroom, as its sudden arrival in these particularly important locations may stress them out and put them off their food or drive them to pee or poop outside of their litter boxes.

    • Help them form positive associations with their carrier  
      Each day, spritz a few pumps of Feliway calming pheromone on a towel or mat and place the towel/mat into the carrier to help reduce and prevent stress. With pheromones a little truly goes a long way! (Tip: don’t spray the towel while it’s in the carrier, rather spray it out of the carrier and then wave it around to help the alcohol “carrier” dissipate (ideally 15–30 minutes before your cat goes into the crate), as it can help prevent irritation of your cat’s nasal passages. You can also put a little catnip in their carrier on a regular basis, or spray a little catnip oil (diluted) on their carrier towel/blanket. Positive associations can also be formed by feeding them treats and petting or grooming/brushing them while they’re in their carrier. (A carrier that also opens on the top may be easier for this, and such carriers are often also easier for getting cats in and out when at the vet, too.) 

    • Play with them in and around the carrier! Place some of kitty’s favorite toys in their carrier. Do they like chasing a laser pointer, or a feather dancer-type toy? If so, play those games around and even in the carrier. 

    treats-cats-carrier-stressPro Tip: You can help encourage your cat to explore their carrier by tossing treats into it for them. Here are some great treats options and a clicker you can use, as well.

    Lean Treats for Cats are great for cat training — not super soft or malleable, but still easy to break. They're low-cal and cats love them!

    Feline Greenies have the added dental benefit (VOHC seal of approval for tartar-control). They're also low-cal (less than 2 calories per treat). Note: Use these treats for cats that are over 1 year old, because it's likely that their larger size and hardness may be too much for a younger cat.Feline Greenies

    See the video below on how to use treats and a clicker to train your kitty to love their carrier.

    Wash Your Cat's Carrier After Each Vet Visit – It Helps With Their Stress

    When you do actually take your cat to the vet, it’s always a good idea to wash their carrier afterwards. This can help by getting the smells of the vet’s office (and any urine that might have “happened” on the way there or back) out of and off the carrier and the padding or blankets inside. Those “smell memories” alone can stress your cat and make it more difficult to get them into the carrier the next time.

    Crate Training Your Cat

    You’ve (likely) heard of crate training a dog, right? Well, did you know you can carrier train a cat? It’s true, and it follows very similar principles to the process in dogs. Patience and consistency are key — as is finding a quiet, relaxed environment and treats your cat really enjoys. Here’s a video showing the steps in the process of cat carrier training. So, as you can see it can be done, and when your cat is comfortable in their carrier, it's SO rewarding and will make life so much easier (and safer) for you both.

    The CATalyst Council has produced a wonderfully informative video that demonstrates the steps you should take to ensure your cat has the best possible experience with its crate. From choosing the right crate to helping a cat that's fearful, practically everything you need to know is right here. You can view the entire video here or each step separately below:

    Cat-carrier-video-steps.png

    Putting Your Cat In A Carrier – In A Pinch

    If you've stumbled across this article and don't have enough time to prep your cat for the vet visit using the tips above then here's a handy technique to get your cat in their carrier that might work – check out this video.

    Acclimating your cat to their carrier is just one of the (very important) steps to reducing your cat’s stress — both general stress and their (and your) stress heading to the vet. According to the 2013 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, 58% of cat owners think their cat hates going to the vet, and 38% of cat owners get stressed just thinking about taking their cat to the vet. It's no wonder cats don't get the regular veterinary care and the medical oversight, they so deserve to be as healthy as possible – it's just too stressful for them and their owners. So please, for both of your sakes, I hope you’ll take some time to do these steps and reduce future stress levels. And let us know how it goes and what works or doesn’t work for you and your cats.

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    Topics: Cat Health, pet safety tips, Crate Training, travel with pets, travel anxiety, Restraints, Crates, Wellness Check-up, Vet Exam, Cat Tips, Cat

    Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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