Did you know that cats are less likely to make their recommended annual veterinary visits than dogs? In fact, the 2017-18 edition of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook states, “78.8 percent of dog owners said they brought their animals in for routine or preventive care at least once a year, compared with 47.2 percent of cat owners.” While the exact reasons why feline patients receive less veterinary care is unknown, the stress surrounding transportation likely has something to do with it. If you’ve ever brought out your cat carrier only to see Fluffy make a run for it, you know first-hand that this can be a stressful scenario. That’s why we’ve compiled a few important considerations for bringing your cat for their regular veterinary care. We want to make this experience as calm and comfortable as possible, and with your help, we can help your cat achieve the care they deserve.
Understanding your cat’s behavior
First and foremost, getting a grip on what’s going through your cat’s mind is key to addressing their fears and hesitations. Many animals—cats, especially—feel most at ease in an environment they find familiar and non-threatening. This is particularly true for indoor cats whose familiar surroundings are limited. Taking them to the veterinarian can pose a whole slew of new and unfamiliar experiences, including the carrier, the car, and the veterinarian’s office. Understanding that this transition takes time and patience will allow you to take the necessary steps to ensure maximum comfort for your cat, and a peaceful transition to the veterinarian.
Choosing an appropriate cat carrier
Choosing a suitable transport carrier for your cat is paramount. Refrain from using a cardboard box or other contraption not meant to carry an animal, which compromises not only your cat’s comfort, but also their safety. Look for a device with the following features:
- A sturdy exterior — The carrier should be hard-sided to ensure your cat’s safety during transport. Soft carriers may be easier to store, but a hard, sturdy carrier is best for functionality and protection.
- Several openings — An ideal cat carrier will have openings at the front and the top to allow for easier removal.
- A removable top — Quite possibly the most desirable feature of a cat carrier is a removable top with clips along the sides that function easily to detach and reattach the top half. For cats who prefer to stay in their carrier, this detail is invaluable, as your Village Animal Hospital veterinarian can perform their exam while your cat rests comfortably at the bottom of the contraption.
You don’t have to break the bank for an appropriate, comfortable cat carrier. Most pet stores and online retailers carry affordable products that meet these minimum standards.
Acclimating your cat to the carrier
Perhaps the most important part of this process is allowing your pet sufficient time and space to get acclimated to their new carrier. For optimal success, don’t rush your pet, or force them into their carrier, because that may result in permanent distaste. We recommend choosing and purchasing a carrier well in advance of your appointment, if at all possible, and then following these tips:
- Place the opened carrier in a room where your cat likes to spend time for several days or weeks before your scheduled appointment.
- Leave some cherished items, such as bedding or a favorite toy, inside the carrier.
- When you catch your pet going in the carrier on their own, offer gentle praise in the form of cuddles or treats. Do not scare them by making abrupt movements or noises.
Over time, your pet should naturally become acclimated to the carrier—and they may learn to love it! We know that emergencies arise, which may not leave you time to go through this process. Don’t worry. If you don’t have time to prep your pet, place the carrier and your cat in a small room, and give them a few minutes to check it out. If they don’t enter voluntarily, cradle them and gently place them in the top portion. Feline pheromone sprays may aid in this process. Remember that patience is key—your cat will pick up on your frustration or panic, so do your best to remain calm.
At Village Animal Hospital, we believe that a suitable cat carrier translates to happier veterinary visits, which ultimately means improved health care for your cat. Contact us to set up your feline friend’s next wellness visit.