This week one of our clients couldn’t bring her cat in for a routine dental cleaning.
Why not? Because as soon as she brought the carrier out, the cat disappeared and couldn’t be found.
This is a common problem and it shouldn’t be surprising to people if you think about it.
The only time cats get into carriers is to go somewhere unpleasant for them, such as a vet, groomer, or boarding facility.
They associate the carrier with the stress of travel and then the results once they get to the destination.
So of course as soon as they see the carrier come out they remember previous episodes and want to immediately avoid it.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
There are actually several simple things that clients can do to get their cats over this fear.
And it’s something I recommend every cat owner look at doing as soon as possible.
Taking the following steps can help reduce your stress as well as your cat’s.
1. Make the carrier a piece of normal furniture.
Keep the carrier in a conspicuous place all of the time.
Instead of putting it away and then bringing it out when it’s time to take your cat to the vet, make it a regular part of the environment.
Put it near the litter boxes, food bowls, cat tower, or just in a corner of the room.
Wherever you put it is fine as long as the cat can see it and interact with it.
Before long it won’t become an object to be feared.
It will be as normal and routine to them as the couch or a chair.
If you don’t like keeping the carrier out all of the time, consider at least a week before the necessary usage.
The week or two prior to the vet visit, place the carrier out in the open, let the cat hide, explore and then adjust so that on the morning of the appointment your cat won’t be spooked by seeing it.
2. Make the carrier a positive item.
Change the associate for your cat from something of stress to one of pleasantness.
The best way to do this is to put treats inside the carrier if your cat is food motivated.
Or incorporate it into your cat playtime activities (throwing cat toys inside it for your cat to retrieve).
Leave the door open so the cat will go in and out whenever they want to.
Yes, there may be some initial anxiety and they may be reluctant, but once they get used to it they won’t think twice about it.
This works especially well if you spent a few weeks having the carrier out and open as I mentioned above.
Once they are used to eating or playing in the carrier it can also be simple to put some food into it, wait for them to go inside, then quietly close the door.
3. Just before traveling use Feliway.
I believe in the use of pheromone therapy for anxiety issues in dogs and cats.
If you’re not aware of it, Feliway is a synthetic duplication of the pheromones found in cat facial glands and when they inhale it the product helps to relax them and give them a feeling of well being.
It can lower their anxiety and keep them from being as stressed during travel.
This is a trick that feline specialists have used for years and works well in most cases.
If you combine Feliway with the above counter-conditioning techniques, the trip may be quite relaxed and pleasant for you and your cat.
(Feliway is available to order online and in retail pet stores).
These tips can help avoid undue injury to you and your cat.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many of my clients come in with their cat’s secured in a carrier, but the client’s arms are bleeding and scraped.
So, if your cat is still hesitant, simply picking your cat up with a small blanket or towel, and wrapping the cat’s body in the towel as you place inside of the carrier, protects the cat’s claws from scratching you.
Of course, all of this will take a little work, planning, and forethought. But with just a little extra effort not only can the cat be less stressed, but so can you.