Providing good health care, especially preventive health care, can allow your cats to have longer, more comfortable lives. However, this cannot happen unless they see the veterinarian for needed care. Many cats dislike going to the veterinarian, and that starts with the difficulty of getting the cat into the carrier. If we can make this step easier, the entire veterinary visit is usually less stressful.
The following tips will help make trips to your Whitby veterinarian easier for you and your cat:
Understanding your Cat’s Behavior
- Cats are most comfortable with the familiar, and need time to adjust to the unfamiliar. The visit to the veterinarian is often difficult because the carrier, car, and the veterinary hospital are usually unfamiliar. Respect your cat’s need for time to become familiar with new situations, people and places.
- Stay calm. Cats can sense our anxiety or frustrations, which may cause them to become fearful or anxious.
- Cats do not learn from punishment or force. Give rewards to encourage positive behavior. For example, if your cat is sitting calmly in or near a carrier, give a treat. Likewise, rewards can be given to help your cat become familiar with the type of handling that may be encountered at the veterinarian (e.g., handling paws, ears and mouth). A treat is what is highly desirable to your cat, which may be in the form of food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward every time.
Helping Your Cat Become Comfortable with the Carrier
The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with positive experiences and routinely enter voluntarily.
- Make the carrier a familiar place at home by leaving it in a room where your cat spends a lot of time.
- Place familiar soft bedding inside the carrier. Bedding or clothing with your scent can make them feel more secure.
- Place treats, catnip or toys inside the carrier to encourage the cat to enter at home. Often, you will first see that treats are removed from the carrier during the night.
- It may take days or weeks before your cat starts to trust the carrier. Remain calm, patient and reward desired behaviors.
- If you still have trouble, you may need to assess the carrier itself.
Getting an Unwilling Cat into the Carrier
If your cat needs to go to the veterinarian right away, and is not yet accustomed to the carrier, the following may help:
- Start by putting the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring the cat into the room and close the door. Move slowly and calmly. Do not chase the cat to get it into the carrier. Encourage the cat with treats or toys to walk into the carrier.
- If your cat will not walk into the carrier, and your carrier has an opening on the top, gently cradle your cat and lower it into the carrier. Another option is to remove the top half of your carrier while getting the cat to go into the bottom half, and then calmly replace the top.
- Use familiar bedding inside the carrier. Consider use of synthetic feline facial pheromone (Feliway®) analog spray in the carrier at least 30 minutes prior to transport to help calm the cat.
Coming Home – Keeping the Peace in a Multi-cat Household
Cats are very sensitive to smells, and unfamiliar smells can result in one cat no longer recognizing another. Aggressive behavior can occur when one cat senses another as a stranger. These suggestions can help avoid problems between cats following a veterinary visit:
- Leave the returning cat in the carrier for a few minutes to see how all of your cats react.
- If all cats appear calm and peaceful, let the returning cat out of the carrier.
- If you sense tension between the cats, or if previous home-comings have resulted in conflict, keep the cat in the carrier and take it to a separate room to avoid potential injury from an upset cat. Provide food, water and litter box for a minimum of 24 hours while it regains the more familiar smell of home.
- If there is still stress after this time, contact your veterinarian for more advice on slower introduction or medication to help the process.
- A synthetic feline pheromone (Feliway®) can help provide the sense of familiarity.
- For future visits:
– Use familiar bedding or clothing with your scent, as it retains the smell of home and helps with reintroduction.
– Use a synthetic feline pheromone (Feliway®).
– Bring both cats to the veterinary practice together. This can prevent future conflict as both cats will carry the scent of the clinic.
What Type of Carriers are Best?
The best carriers are inexpensive hardsided carriers that open from the top and the front, and can also be taken apart in the middle. An easily removable top allows a cat which is fearful, anxious or in pain to stay in the bottom half of the carrier for exams. Your veterinarian can often do the exam in the bottom of a well-designed carrier. Avoid carriers that require a cat to be pulled from or dumped out for an exam.
Choose carriers that are sturdy, secure and stable for the cat, as well as easy for you to carry. Carriers should be seat-belted into the car to keep your cat safer and to reduce the bumpiness of the ride. Some cats like to see out, whereas others are less anxious when the carrier is covered with a blanket or towel to prevent seeing the unfamiliar.
You are an important member of your cat’s healthcare team. You can be instrumental in helping your cat have more relaxed veterinary visits and improved healthcare.
Thanks for the tip about the carrier. We just got a kitty and I wanted to take her with me as I find a vet for her. I guess I had some unrealistic expectations because I didn’t know that the need to be comfortable with the carrier first. I don’t want to rush her, so I’ll do the looking on my own, but I’ll definitely use treats and follow your suggestions with the carrier. Thankfully we bought the right kind!
I like what this article mentions about carriers making a difference. I think an easy to load carrier that my cat isn’t scared of could be a great way of having her go in without much trouble. I’ll have to look into getting one with a removable top, so it’s not as stressful at the vet. Thanks for the post!
I didn’t realize that cats could sense our anxiety and react to it. My wife and stress out every time we have to take our cat to the vet. I wonder if that causes her to misbehave. We will try and stay calm and relaxed next time to see if she behaves better. Thanks for the tips!
My brother just moved and he needs to find a new vet to help him keep his cat in good health. You wrote that when you take your cat to the vet, you should make sure to bring the cat in a carrier and to encourage your cat get into it with treats and love. If my brother loads his cat carefully and with care, the cat will likely be in a good mood when you arrive at the vet and that would make the visit a lot easier. Thank you for the read.
What got my attention was how you said that cats can feel the anxiety and the worry in their masters and will begin feeling the same away eventually, so it’s best to stay calm when taking them to the vet. I will surely take note of that one because I can be a rather nervous owner. I’m glad that I came across this article because I learned the things that need to remember before taking my cat to the vet. I am sure that her situation will get worse because of me if I don’t calm down. Thank you.
My parents recently got me a cat for my birthday and I need to take her to the vet, so I am glad that I found this article. You make a great point that you should practice driving your cat around in the carrier so they will not be nervous or unwilling to get in the carrier when they need to go to the vet. Also, I like that you say to bring your cat’s favorite treat with you to the vet so that I can reward her for good behavior.
It really helped when you said that veterinarians can also give the advice to help your pet have a slower introduction to the medication. I will share this with my sister since her cat is a really nervous type of cat. I guess it was because the cat was only rescued by my sister which makes it really careful of its environment. They just need to get it treated since it has a skin infection on its leg.