We all know that most cats aren’t huge fans of riding in cars, or going to the vets. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but typically, cats don’t love being in carriers. Dr. Jane Brunt offers some tips for how to make cats more comfortable with carriers in her Podcast with AVMA.
Her first suggestion is to make sure that your carrier is appropriately sized for your cat. It should be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around, but small enough that they feel secure. A carrier that is too big will make a cat feel less secure and can also be harmful during transportation to the vet.
Her second piece of advice is to make sure that the cat is used to the carrier. The carrier shouldn’t be hidden away in the basement or garage, and only taken out when you’re headed to the vet. The carrier should be out and open in an area where the cat has full access to it at all times. This way, the cat doesn’t associate the carrier with being in the car or going to the vet.
Having the carrier as a part of the cat’s environment will help the cat feel more comfortable at the vet because the carrier will be a place of comfort for them. Another way to help your cat feel more comfortable is to make sure that the carrier has something comfortable for the cat to lay on. This should be a bed or towel that smells like the cat, or you. This way your cat will be used to the carrier and will have something that smells familiar.
Another tip is to actively work with your cat to make them comfortable with their carrier. Reward them with treats or food any time they go near or inside their carrier. You can use toys to entice them to use their carrier in the beginning, this will help them associate some of their favorite things with the carrier. The key is positive reinforcement!
What should you do if your cat has already had a bad experience with a carrier? Start from scratch! Get a different type of carrier and leave it out. Plan ahead, too. Make sure that you get your cat their new carrier weeks before you actually have to use it. Once you pick out their new carrier, bring it home and put something that smells like them in the carrier and leave the carrier in a non-threatening area. Follow the advice above to help your feline friend get used to their new carrier!
This will help your cat associate the new carrier with home, and a comfortable space, instead of a scary cage they have to be crammed into once a year to come to see the vet.
The most important take away is to get your cat used to their carrier. Move their carrier to a place in your home where they can access it at all times. This will help them view their carrier as a hideout or bed, instead of something strange and scary. Make sure interaction with their carrier is frequent and positive. This will help ease their tension about coming to the vet!