As cat people, many of us have had the experience of our cat running and hiding as soon as they see or hear the carrier coming out of the closet. Then, after 30 or more minutes of trying to get the kitty from under the bed, we try to put them in the carrier as legs are sprawling, nails are clawing and fur is flying. This whole process is a very difficult and stressful situation for both owner and cat.
Every day people are spending $30 to $300 or more on cat furniture or condos. Why not take the carrier that you have in a closet or your basement and make that into a cozy home for your kitty? If the carrier is left out at all times, it likely will become a wonderful little den for her to sleep in and won’t be a stressful container she is forced into once a year. If your cat is already afraid of the carrier, then you will need to desensitize her to it. This may be a slow process, but will be well worth your effort.
The first step would be to make the carrier as comfy and cozy as possible to attract your kitty. Find a blanket or small pillow that your cat already loves to nap on, and place that in the base of the carrier. The blankets can be sprayed with Feliway to help the transition as well. Make sure to place the carrier in a spot where the kitty already spends a lot of time. Sometimes taking the cover off the carrier and just having the blanket filled base is a good place to start.
Once your cat has shown some interest in the carrier, start offering some treats as she approaches the carrier. Then place some treats inside the carrier, to get her to walk into it. You can even offer meals inside, so she starts to associate good things with the carrier. If your kitty isn’t very food motivated, you can try using a favorite toy to lure her in. Remember to praise her every time she goes in with some quietly said ‘good girl’s and some pats or scratches behind the ears.
Once she becomes comfortable with the cover off, try putting the cover back in place. Many cats love hiding under blankets or in dark places, so you can put another soft or fuzzy blanket on top of the carrier to cover all but the front entrance.Now she has the option of retreating into the quiet carrier or perching on top to survey her territory.
If you have multiple cats and multiple carriers, ideally they would all be out and part of your cats’ everyday lives. The more comfortable they are with the carrier at home, the more they will tolerate their trips to the vets.
When it is time to bring your cat to the vet it shouldn’t be nearly as difficult to get her into the carrier. Use the blanket that is already on the carrier, covering the entrance as well, to carry her to the car and from the car to the vet office.
Many cats do not travel well, and by limiting her ability to see out, we limit the stimulation. Imagine what it may be like for your cat in the seat, only able to see a small portion out the window with trees, vehicles and buildings flying past. That in itself could be very stressful to your furry friend.
With the blanket covering the carrier, it creates the comfy den that they are used to at home. Then once you do arrive at the vet clinic, the staff can use the blanket to cover the exam table. This way, kitty doesn’t have to step on a cold, hard surface, but one that is soft and smells like home. When the exam is over return the kitty into the carrier and put the cover back on (covering the entire carrier).