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Taking Cats to the Vet while Avoiding Stress and Struggles

Not every trip to the vet needs to start with a harrowing fight to cram the cat into the carrier. Instead, adapting to the cat’s natural curiosity can help reduce the fear.

A vet visit may be stressful for a cat, the stress frequently beginning with the fight to get the pet into the carrier. A cat will often associate the cat carrier with negative experiences like veterinary examinations, which precipitates a fight-or-flight syndrome when the carrier is presented. Making positive associations between the carrier and the cat may reduce the fear that leads to these difficulties.

Most cats don’t make a lot of car trips because they can get underfoot if allowed to move freely about the vehicle. Moreover, transporting an animal in a carrier is safer for two reasons. First, the cat won’t get into dangerous places, such as under the gas pedal, through prevention. In the case of a collision, a carrier that is adequately anchored to the car seat will protect the animal, much like a seat belt.

Pet Carriers: a Cat’s Perspective

Typically, these interactions begin with a person attempting to put the cat into a carrier and end with a visit to the veterinarian’s office. A cat has every reason to associate the sight and smell of the carrier with the unpleasantness of a vet visit. The smell, in particular, is known to form strong memories in humans, and it stands to reason that those associations could be stronger in a creature with a better olfactory system.

Cats need days or weeks to adjust to changes in their surroundings. They draw comfort from identifying the regular patterns around them and may recognize ways where a human would not. A cat dislikes surprises and becomes more difficult to surprise as it identifies warning patterns.

A Cat’s Curiosity is Stronger than Fear

The cat’s curiosity stems from a desire to investigate all changes in its environment. Fear is often a response to unexpected change, such as the appearance of a cat carrier out of the blue. Fear can be replaced by curiosity by bringing it out far enough in advance that it can be investigated and accepted as harmless.

  1. Ensemble the carrier if required.
  2. Add the cat’s scent by including an item that the animal has slept on.
  3. Place it with the door facing outward and propped open.
  4. Ignore the carrier entirely until it is needed.

The first time, the cat may flee, but within at least 24 hours, a full investigation of the carrier will occur. Cats will generally sit in the carrier voluntarily when treated in this manner. With no human action being taken, the carrier develops an overall neutral association.

Preparing for the Car Trip

With the carrier out for at least a day, it will no longer be automatically linked to vet trips. However, make it a point to perform these steps in advance or out of sight.

  1. Close off rooms with the best hiding places earlier in the day.
  2. Ensure that the cat is inside well in advance of the appointment.
  3. Invert the carrier so that the open door is at the top.
  4. Locate the cat and pick it up affectionately, turning it away while quickly moving to the carrier.
  5. Gently holding the front legs close to the body, swiftly put the cat headfirst into the carrier and latch the door before it realizes what’s happening.

Upon returning from the vet, leave the carrier out with the door open for several hours after releasing the cat. If possible, consider storing it someplace the cat can reach at any time.