Low Stress Ways of getting your cat in the carrier

By Frania Shelley-Grielen. All rights reserved

As a general rule, your cat, being the highly territorial creature that a cat is, would prefer staying home to traveling whether to a new home, for the holidays or to the vet. Even so, a visit to the vet is an occasional necessity. And what about when your travels may be extended and you choose to bring along your feline or your ticket is one way rather than round trip? For times like these, low stress and pain free methods to help get your cat in the carrier in the most feline friendly way can make all the difference to how you and your cat start the journey.

For most cats, the carrier is not a positive place: they're trapped, moved to a strange new place with no familiar sights, sounds or smells, get taken to the vet for poking and prodding and very rarely spend any time in one that ends up in positive situation (to their way of thinking). Now, your cat may or may not have already been in a carrier. We can bet that even if a cat is not a stranger to the carrier, they didn't like it either way. While humans may know that cat carriers are safe havens for moving cats around, the only time kitty may agree is when it's time to leave the vet's office. So what do you do when you have to use one? You can remedy the negative association of the cat carrier with a few tricks of the trade:

- A new carrier, where nothing bad has ever happened, to start your new cat carrier friendly experience can help. Make sure the carrier can be easily accessed and separated into two distinct parts if it is rigid. Soft sided or rigid, become familiar yourself with assembling and closing the carrier before introducing it to your cat.

- Avoid "cat bags" that immobilize a cat or carriers intended for human babies. Being restrained in this sort of transport is not only highly stressful but dangerous if a stressed cat escapes

- When carrying the cat carrier, support it against your body or with your hands so it is not swaying of swinging freely which can further terrify the cat inside. And no to rolling carriers for the same reason.

- Patronize a cat friendly veterinarian who will perform most, if not all of your cat’s exam by leaving the cat in the carrier, making your cat’s visit less stressful and you more likely to return for more. Stay with kitty for social support, and avoid multiple room changes at the clinic, studies show this reduces stress. Make sure the carrier you are using, rigid or soft, opens easily from the top or sides, add a cat bed with shallow raised sides to the carrier so the cat can remain comforted in the carrier for their exam.

- In the time you have before leaving (or to prepare in general) start leaving the carrier out and open in either a secure and elevated resting space (top of a dresser) or a corner of which ever room your cat spends the most time.

-Make sure your cat has independent access to enter and leave the carrier. Remove the top half or leave the soft sided carrier open. Over time you will progress to closing the top of the carrier but leaving the door open (making sure to remove the door to the carrier if possible or securely propped open at all times during this step).

-Placing a small, oval cat bed with raised sides in the carrier will add to the comfort of the open ended, enclosed space. Make sure to add additional cat beds to your cat’s general living space for a more cat friendly environment and to act as cat transport to the carrier (details follow).

-Sprinkle catnip or valerian root around and inside the cat bed in the carrier and around the entry outside of carrier. Favored cat toys strategically positioned around the carrier will also add to its appeal.

-Take a few moments each day (morning and evening) and begin playing with your cat's favorite interactive toy next the carrier (that wand with the sting and the feather on it not your foot).

-Offer treats close to the carrier (the kind of treats that are really high value like dried salmon as opposed to those manufactured kitty treats) and progress to leaving them as close to inside the carrier as possible. If your cat does not eat the treats this is an indication that the cat is still not comfortable with the steps in the process. Try placing the treats a further distance away from the carrier and increasing your playtime. (continues below)