Unlike dogs, which may visit parks or the bank for a biscuit…cats rarely leave their home for any purpose for which they might consider it a positive experience. Therefore, to help your cat feel safe when traveling is a must, we have a number of suggestions. One technique that we recommend to help your cat is to leave your cat carrier out within your home regularly. Having soft, comfortable bedding in the carrier, along with periodic treats in it (like tasty food items or toys, catnip, etc) and placing the carrier in an area the cat likes to go, can allow the cat to explore this space and learn that it is non-threatening. Placing the box in sunspots with the lid off or in an area that is quiet and pleasant and will not expose the cat to harassment by other pets or people is important. Observing where your cat likes to spend its time will help you decide where the cat may like to find the box. If your cat is particularly spooked by the box, we carry a spray called Feliway that you may purchase without a prescription. Spraying the bedding with this calming hormone every day or two can help the cat become more comfortable with the carrier.
Once your cat will rest in the box of its own accord, you can introduce intermittent feeding times within the carrier with the door closed. After the cat eats, allow it to leave the box. When comfort with this is established, place the cat within the box in a car that is not running. Condition the cat to short periods in the car, with lots of praise, reassurance. Gradually work up to short experiences with the engine idling (but not going anywhere), and then short trips around the block. Graduate with a trip to an ice cream store, where you can get yourself a well-deserved cone and let your kitty have a lick (vanilla, not chocolate)!
When you come to the clinic, please place your cat’s carrier on our seating, instead of the floor. This will make the cat feel less vulnerable should another pet wander up to sniff your cat’s carrier. Bringing a towel to cover the cat’s carrier is very reassuring to your cat as well, although we also invite you to leave your cat in your car in it’s’ carrier until we can bring your cat to the exam room. This can minimize your cat’s need to see and smell strange dogs.
Should you need to visit us urgently, and time to acclimate your cat to the carrier is not available, we still recommend bringing your pet in a carrier with soft bedding and perhaps an item that smells of home. Use of a carrier is important because scared cats can panic and get loose, getting lost or hurt in the process. If your cat is prone to resisting placement into carriers, a carrier whose top opens is very helpful. Scoop the kitty up in a thick towel or blanket, and place into the carrier. If a top opening carrier is not available, sometimes putting the cat in tail first can be easier. Do not forget to talk to your cat gently and praise him or her for being brave!
If these techniques are not helpful, please talk to us! Some patients benefit from anti-anxiety medication or medicines for car sickness!