Getting a cat to the vets can prove to be a very difficult task, especially if they have a negative association with their carrier. Here are some pointers that could make the whole process less stressful for you as owners, and for your cat(s). The first thing to understand is that cats are very… Read more »
Getting a cat to the vets can prove to be a very difficult task, especially if they have a negative association with their carrier. Here are some pointers that could make the whole process less stressful for you as owners, and for your cat(s).
The first thing to understand is that cats are very uncomfortable with unfamiliar routine, objects and environments. Any situation that involves changing a cat’s normal routine can prove to be very stressful for the cats and their owners. It is important in any situation like this for owners to remain calm and not get frustrated as cats will pick up on these behaviours and can become more anxious. It is important to remember that cats do not learn from any type of negative punishment. Instead lots of calm, positive reinforcement should be used to make a cat more comfortable in a situation that could potentially be very stressful.
In terms of the carrier used to take the cat to the vet in; there are many different ways to acclimatise your cat to the carrier making it less daunting to them when it is suddenly presented at the time of a vet visit. One way of doing this is instead of keeping it in a cupboard in between vet visits, keep it out in a room in which your cat spends a lot of its time. Place familiar blankets or clothing and toys (catnip can be very tempting!) into the carrier as they will feel more comfortable around their scents that will already be on them. Initially, simply try and get your cat used to the carrier being around. Place treats and food in the room and around the carrier. Give the cat lots of positive reinforcement when they are around the carrier and treats when they get closer. Once the cat has become more comfortable with the carrier (it may take some time!) start leaving some treats inside the carrier. At first they will probably eat them over night, before they feel more confident so keep track on how many you are putting in and how many are left in the morning. It can take a few days or even weeks for cats to become accustom to their carriers, it is important to persevere or possibly get a different carrier if they have a real dislike to their current one. Hard sided carriers that can open from the top and the front are the best type. It is also useful to have one that can be taken apart in the middle as this can make their time at the vets much less stressful if they are too fearful to walk out on their own accord. For the more difficult cats, the wire carriers are a great help and far less stressful as the cat can be placed in easily from the wide open top and the lid placed down. These carriers are also a bit bigger than average cat boxes.
Depending on whether the cat has accepted the carrier or not, or simply if a vet visit is urgent there are ways in which you can ease the process of getting the cat into the carrier. Firstly put the carrier into a small room with few hiding places, bring the cat to the carrier and close the door. Slowly and calmly try and encourage the cat into the carrier using treats and/or toys depending on their preference. If your cat will not walk into the carrier the easiest way to get them in is through a top opening carrier. If not, another way to try is to put the cat in backwards. Cats don’t like to walk into dark, enclosed spaces therefore to put them in backwards reduces this, making it less stressful for them. It is a good idea to use familiar bedding which they have recently slept on in the carrier and also use a synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway®) spray 30 minutes before putting the cat into the carrier. This will help them to feel more comfortable and can hugely reduce stress of unfamiliar items based on scent.