Cats, Carriers, and a Trip to the Vet
Tips on making it easier to get your cat to the Vet.
Many cats are fearful of carriers, car rides and vet visits which can make it difficult for owners to decide to bring their cats in for wellness exams and routine care, and may delay an exam for an illness. Cats can be trained to be much more comfortable with their carriers, cars and the veterinary clinic. It takes preparation and patience but can make the whole experience much more enjoyable for you, your cat and our veterinarians. Here are some tips and links from feline behavioral specialists that will help you help your cat.
1 Start carrier training as young as possible. Starting when they are kittens teaches them that the carrier is just another fun hiding place or play area. Top loading carriers whose top and bottom shells separate are helpful in the exam room because we can take the top off and leave the cat sitting comfortably in the bottom on a towel or absorptive paper. Put the carrier in a room that the cat likes, perhaps in a sunny location to encourage exploration and voluntary use.
2 Encourage daily entry. Put a piece of kibble or treat in the carrier. When the cat eats it, calmly praise or pet her, and give another treat. If she doesn’t eat it, walk away. It may take a few days, but she should start eating the treats, although maybe not when being watched.
3 Gradually close the door. Once the cat happily goes into the carrier when you are around, gently close the door, give a treat, and open the door so that the cat does not feel trapped.
4 Extend the door closure period. After several days of this, leave the door closed and walk out of the room for a few seconds before returning and giving another treat. Gradually work up to carrying the carrier to a different place in the house.
5 Begin car rides. Over days to weeks, move on to placing the carrier in the car, then short car rides, then a ride to the veterinary clinic for a treat and petting from the staff. Just like any behavioral modification process, if at any point your cat becomes nervous, hisses, or ears go back, go back a step and give treats until comfort is re-established.
6 Cover the carrier when traveling. A towel or piece of sheet can make them feel safer. Add favorite toys to the carrier.
7 If your cat is especially anxious early on, consider using Feliway pheromone anti-anxiety spray on a small piece of terry cloth or on the bedding which in some cats can reduce anxiety levels when introducing them to new experiences.
With this desensitization training, many cats will be more comfortable with a familiar routine when the time for a veterinary examination arrives.
Some cats, despite your best efforts, still remain afraid of confinement and travel. In such instances, anti-anxiety medications might be prescribed by our veterinarians to help alleviate the stress.
Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.
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