One helpful hint is to start training your cat to feel comfortable around his or her cat carrier. This works best to start training weeks in advance of a scheduled appointment, if at all possible. Start by leaving the carrier out all the time in a room your cat spends time in. The door can either be removed temporarily to allow easy access, or pulled open and then tied securely back. We want the cat to have easy access to the carrier for treats and napping. Place some soft bedding or a towel inside. A few daily treats or some catnip placed inside will entice your cat to explore this new object in his or her surroundings. In this way, the cat carrier will become a positive object that your cat can lose her fear of.
What kind of carrier? For us, we prefer a 2 piece, hard plastic carrier with a removable top. While the soft bag carriers are comfortable and best for airline travel, it can be difficult to extract a cat from them. With the removable top, we can often perform much of the physical exam on a cat while he or she remains in the bottom part of the carrier. The bottom of the carrier, now lined with your towel, smells like home and conveys comfort and security to your cat. We have found many upset cats will lose some of their anxiety with this approach. What size of carrier? A good place to start is to be sure the carrier is big enough for your cat to turn around inside it with ease.
The next step in training is to notice when you start to see your cat entering the carrier, or spending some time napping there. Now take the carrier door, which has been tied back, and shut the door with your cat in the carrier. Pick up the carrier and walk around your house so the cat can get used to movement. A step further would be to put the carrier in your car and go for a car ride around the block. When you return home, open the carrier in the same area of the house where previously it had been left out, and again tie open the door and place a few treats in it on a daily basis.
On appointment day, here are a few tips that we hope will make the process go as easy as possible. If by now, your cat is trained to go into the carrier for a treat or catnip, start with that. If this isn’t happening yet, you may find it easiest to place the carrier on its rump end, orienting it so the carrier door is UP. Then gently pick up your cat, hold her back 2 feet together and gently slide her down and into the carrier, back feet first. Try to remain calm and quiet to minimize anxiety about being caught. When safely in, and door is closed, place a towel or blanket over the carrier and talk soothingly to your cat. Your cat will appreciate the darkness and privacy. When arriving at our hospital, your cat will hear and smell unfamiliar things. With the carrier covered, the cat will be able to remain hidden and feel safer.