Does your cat hate getting in their carrier to go to the vet? Unfortunately many do. But if you think about it, it’s not surprising. For many 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 , 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?
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.
- 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, 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.