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


    Putting "Love" In This Love-Hate-Relationship

    Does your cat hate getting in their carrier to go to the vet? Unfortunately lots do. But if you think about it, it’s not surprising. For many (most?) cats the only time they see, let alone get into, their carrier is 2 minutes before they’re whisked out the door to head off to the veterinarian.

    And since many cats aren’t brought for routine wellness care (like annual check-ups), and just brought to the vet when they’re “off” or sick...

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


    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 crate out all the time, then take it out several days before their scheduled veterinary visit – This 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 – Keep a comfortable towel or blanket in their carrier. Spray that towel with Feliway / Comfort Zone, a calming pheromone that can work wonders to help reduce and prevent stress in cats — you don’t need much, just a spritz or two. 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.

    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.

    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

    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.


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

    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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