Would you rather have your teeth pulled than have to wrestle your cat into a box and take her to a veterinarian? She may be 6 lbs of furry love but as soon as she sees that kennel her inner tiger comes out and she can make a grown man cry with fear!
If you are one of those owners who has to dawn protective clothing to wrestle your cat into a carrier then this is the blog for you. But any kitten or cat, can over time, can grow to hate their carrier – so really this is great advice for all cat owners!
I have now been a veterinarian in Abbotsford for 23 years and I have met and examined many cats; there are the timid ones who think that I cannot see them if their heads are buried in their owner’s arms, the self confident cats who strut around the exam room with their tail held high opening cupboard doors to see what is inside, and then there are the cats who vow to return and seek their revenge. All of these cats require the same medical attention – examinations, blood work, urinalysis, blood pressure and at times medication.
I do think it is very important that every cat be examined once a year – how else are we going to make sure that Fluffy doesn’t have a “cavity” or arthritis? Owners know their cats well BUT cats are very secretive and do not tell their owners there is a problem until they are very sick. It is much easier to keep a patient healthy and treat a problem early in the disease process when the issue may still be subclinical – like fixing the roof on your house before water leaks in because, as well all know, after the leak you still have to fix the roof but also have to repair the carpet, drywall, paint, and insulation.
Our goal is to try and have a stress free visit with your cat. At Fraser Valley Animal Hospital we play classical music (studies show it reduces stress in cats), we use Feliway (which is an aerosolized calming pheromone), and our staff are trained in stress free handling. But a stress-free veterinary visit is not possible for our feline patients if the trip to the clinic has already “frazzled the cat’s nerves”!
Here are 9 steps to training your cat to love his carrier and make transporting your cat stress free!
This is a great thing to start with kittens but it is never too late to start with any cat just have patience and take your time. If your cat already hates your carrier you may need to start with a new carrier, but make sure you change style!
- Instead of hiding the crate and dragging it out and shoving your cat into the box try making the crate part of the furniture—set it on the floor in a corner of the room for your cat to explore at his leisure.
- Take the door off so he can come and go.
- Toss a soft blanket or towel inside for a bed, especially one that you’ve rubbed over him so that the blanket smells like him.
- Spray the inside of the crate with Feliway. The spray mimics the cheek pheromone of cats and makes them feel safe. It takes 15 minutes for the carrier to dissipate and then the pheromone hangs around for 5 hours.
- Play with them around and in the crate – cat nip, a feather toy, a ping pong ball
- For treat-motivated cats, leave tasty tidbits inside for Kitty to find so he discovers the magical-crate has the most delicious smelly bonuses for going inside.
- It may take a week or more for the kitten or cat to feel comfortable around the carrier. Once that happens, put the door back on, and try shutting the door when your cat goes in. While he is inside praise him in a calm, happy voice that’s matter of fact to convince Kitty this is normal and no reason for him to be upset. You can feed him treats through the door and then after a minute or so, let him out and give him another treat or toy reserved only for his best performance.
- Repeat training sessions at least once a day over the next two weeks, building up the time slowly
- Once he’s reached ten minutes and remains calm, pick up the carrier while he’s in it and carry him around, and then let him out. Take him in the carrier out to the car, sit there and talk to him, then bring him back into the house and release him. Eventually start taking him for short car rides.
This is basic desensitization training. You never want to push the cat because once he is scared it is much harder to convince him to love his crate. Always progress in baby steps and only as quickly as your cat tolerates the changes.
Want to see how it is done? Watch this video…..
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