As any cat owner worth their tuna will tell you, taking your feline friend to the vet is often not a fun or easy experience for either party involved. The finding, the catching, and the stuffing into the carrier quickly escalates tension, so that by the time you make it to the exam room, even the calmest cat is ready to explode. The good news is that there are ways to help defuse this problem, both in the short term and for lifelong improvement, and this post will help you tackle them!
The journey to a happy feline traveler begins with a single box. A carrier, to be more specific. To many cats, the carrier represents confinement, fear, and an unpleasant end result. No wonder they fight it so much! In order to make traveling, no matter the destination, more pleasant, we must first understand how cats see the world. When the carrier only comes out when they are already feeling badly, is dark and musty and takes them on a whirlwind ride to a loud place with needles, the feline survival instinct kicks in and they fight quite literally with tooth and nail. But when they have a magical mobile cave that smells like them and sometimes goes to places with treats, they are much more amiable.
In order to achieve this different perspective, some reorganization may be in order. The old, metal carrier must be done away with and replaced with a modern model that features grates to look out, several accessible doors and, preferably, a removable top. This last feature allows cats to be examined without leaving their magical cave of comfort. The carrier should be left out at home and filled with blankets and toys; the infamous feline curiosity will insure that it gets thoroughly explored and marked. When your cat is comfortable with the carrier as a part of their turf, you can begin to take small trips that end somewhere pleasant. Keep in mind, a pleasant trip for a cat can very well mean a trip that ends where it started, with treats. Letting the cat explore the carrier on their own terms will make it that much easier to get them into it without bloodshed when the time comes. Thus, the magic mobile cave slowly gains credence.
Sights, Sounds and Smells
Another important way we can get into our cat’s brains is to understand that cats are scent based creatures. This means that the majority of communication between cats is done through the release of hormones from glands in the face, mouth, feet and anal area. This also means that the majority of the things we say to cats are utter gibberish 🙂 For practical application, however, this means that smells are a good way to help your cat feel at home. Blankets from home, toys that they have facially marked and your own smelly human self are all things that can help a kitty feel less scared. In addition, there is a product called Feliway that mimics the “all good on the home front” message and is proven to help cats reach and maintain inner peace while traveling. This is available as a diffuser for home use, and a spray for the inside of the magic mobile cave.
Finally, the experience at the end of the journey can greatly impact how growly your furry friend tends to be. Being jostled around the in the back seat and then unceremoniously dumped out upside down on the exam table can put some serious hitches in any feline’s gid-a-long. Make sure Floofy is securely buckled in while in the car, and always always always in the carrier. No big meals for the road, either, as a full kitty is frequently a vomiting kitty and that doesn’t help anyone’s mood. Once in the vet’s office, keep the carrier off the ground and pointed away from other animals; any cat or dog that isn’t part of the home pack isn’t going to be part of a happy picture. When you make it to the exam room, always give your cat the option of getting out of the carrier by themselves or, even better, taking the roof of the magic mobile cave and allowing the vet to do most of the exam without kitty ever leaving “home”. If your cat must be removed from the carrier against their will, do it with a gentle hand around their rear, not the “shake and dump” maneuver.
What about a harness and leash?
One final thought that crosses many feline fancier’s minds is the concept of harnesses and leashes. The idea goes that cats are independent minded creatures, and allowing them a modicum of choice in their mode of transportation should lessen the indignity of vet visits. However, in our trip into the feline subconscious we learn that harnesses usually equal “oh god, it’s on me” and leashes equal “the universe has stolen my ability to walk straight”. For cats that have been harness trained since kitfancy, this may be a viable option. For the rest of the feline population, however, the magic mobile cave is a much more pleasing option. In addition, even the harness wearing pro may find the carrier more protective against the scary dogs in the waiting room and the bucking bronco of the car ride.
In summation, we return from our journey in the feline subconscious with the overarching theme that the more we can do to help our cat see the carrier as the magical mobile cave, the easier the trip to the vet’s office will be. Our cats can be healthy and less stressed, and we can have less bloodshed in our daily errands. Overall, both cat and family are happy, and that is can opener music to our ears!