Does your cat hide under the bed every time the carrier makes an appearance? Does a vet visit for Snuggles also involve an ER visit for you? Let us help!
Imagine being thrust into a confined and unfamiliar space. When you are finally released, you find yourself in a place that is completely new and foreign, surrounded by strangers, and perhaps poked and prodded by bizarre objects. Sounds frightening, but this is what our cats can experience during a simple visit to the vet! It’s no wonder that many cats have negative associations with their carriers. But with a little patience and a few simple tricks, you can help your cat understand that his carrier is a safe and comfortable place. This will make moving, car rides, and visits to the vet much less stressful for everyone.
The first step is to plan ahead, and begin this process several weeks before your next excursion with the carrier. Set the carrier out in an area of your house where there is a lot of activity, and make it cozy and welcoming by placing a soft blanket and one or two favorite toys inside. Let the cat explore the carrier if he is interested, but don’t force him if he appear nervous. At dinnertime, feed the cat as close to the carrier door as he is comfortable. If he will not eat his regular food, try treats or baby food (meat flavored, without garlic or onions). Each day, feed him a tiny bit closer to the carrier door until eventually he is eating inside.
Once he seems comfortable inside the carrier, close the door. If he gets stressed out by this and panics, open the door again immediately and go back to the previous step. If he remains relaxed after you shut the door, leave it shut for 30 seconds, then open it. Gradually increase the time you leave the door shut until you have worked up to several minutes. Do this over the course of several days – if your cat starts to appear stressed, then you are moving ahead too quickly. Be patient!
Your goal is to make the carriers comforting, so they can be your cat’s “safe” place during the confusion that often accompanies car trips and vet visits. Who knows? He may eventually find the carrier so comforting that he ends up sleeping inside of it!