Picture the scene
You make your yearly vaccination appointment for your cat over the phone. In preparation you get the carrier out of the garage and dust off the cobwebs. You bring it into the house and the cat disappears. You have to phone the clinic and cancel your appointment…again. On the morning of the new appointment you lock the cat in. You give it some of its favourite treats and then you grab it and shove it into the box. Except that all of a sudden this very small cat has turned into a spiky octopus and is able to contort itself into a shape that means there is NO WAY it is going inside the perfectly adequately sized box. Scratches, hisses, even bites…and now you’re running late for your appointment. You drive maybe that little bit quicker to the clinic and on the way the cat yowls…and I mean, YOWLS. By the time you pull up at the vets there is a delightful array of vomit, faeces and urine (if you’re lucky)…one very stressed cat…and one very strung-out, red-faced owner. And you haven’t even seen the vet yet… Does any of this sound familiar? No doubt that if you own a cat one or all of these incidents may have occurred at some point – you are not alone! However there are some very simple things that you can do that can make your life easier and your cat’s trip to the vets far less stressful….
Cats recognise people and places by their smell. This is why a carrier that smells of the shed; a car that smells of the car and a vet clinic that smells of other worried pets is a frightening place for a kitty. By bringing the carrier into your home months before its needed and leaving it permanently in the cat’s environment it will start to smell familiar. Place some soft bedding (a fleecy blanket) inside, perhaps a t-shirt you’ve worn and maybe a couple of yummy treats or toys and leave it in the corner of the room. At first your cat will probably regard it as the enemy but after a while it may even start sleeping in it! Cats love small, cosy areas that feel secure. Then when it’s time for that appointment GENTLY place your cat in the carrier. Most cats (if not fearful of the carrier) will walk in with some gentle persuasion, but some cats may need to be “backed in” to front-opening carriers. Otherwise top-opening carriers can be helpful and gently scooping the cat up in a big thick towel and lowering it (with the towel) into the carrier can calm the cat and protect your hands from scrabbling feet!
So the cat’s in the carrier – result. Now for the journey. Always place the carrier onto a passenger seat as cats want to be able to see their surroundings. If your cat gets carsick then ideally don’t feed them for a couple of hours before you set off and take some spare bedding if an accident does occur. Cats love warm, quiet environments so leave your dog, kids and the AC-DC at home! A fantastic product called Feliway can really help here. Feliway is a synthetically-made pheromone that cats release when greeting each other or you – that cheek rub that you receive when they smooch around your legs. It makes them feel safe and secure and so by putting a couple of sprays into the car half an hour before you leave, it can really settle them down. The same principle applies for the carrier.
Arriving at the vets
Hopefully things have gone a little more smoothly this time and you have arrived without lacerations and with a pretty calm kitty. Now you’re entering very unfamiliar territory. If there are dogs in the waiting room, this can be unnerving for the cat (remember they recognise by smell so even if you live with dogs, these dogs will smell differently and will be seen as predators). After making yourself known to reception, go and sit away from the dogs and place the carrier next to you on the seat. Cats feel more secure if they have some height and can survey the scene so the floor is a no-no and try to hold the carrier above waist height when walking. Some cats will also feel more secure with a blanket placed over their cage: a case of “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” and for extra effect you could even use a couple of squirts of Feliway on it. Avoid positioning the cat face to face with another kitty as this can also cause stress.
Hopefully with this simple advice you and your kitty will have a far less stressful visit to the vets and you won’t dread receiving that yearly booster reminder quite so much!