This is a great, age-old question that a lot of cat owners ask us! As a pet sitter in Toms River, we often talk to pet owners about all different aspects of pet care – not just their pet sitting needs.
Pet owners want to know they’re doing everything correctly and getting their pets into a carrier is quite a feat for some pet parents. Especially, cat owners. There are a few things to keep in mind before you even bring the carrier into the same room as your cat.
Did you know that most veterinarians will tell you that cat owners often don’t bring their cats in for routine medical care because of the anxiety they and their cats face about the dreaded cat carrier? Cats, like dogs, are sensitive to YOUR energy. If you are scared, nervous, anxious or doubtful – they will sense it and feed off your emotions.
If getting your cat into a carrier has been a disaster in the past, try not to think about what happened and project those same emotions and thoughts this time. Instead, focus on how you are going to make this a better experience for your feline friend. Keep calm and think reassuring thoughts. Your cat will feel the difference.
Something else to consider is the style of cat carrier that is ideal for YOUR cat. Some cats are mellow and won’t try to escape, so a soft, mesh carrier would be suitable for them. Cats who are very scared will try to escape or who are aggressive should use a hard sided carrier. Make sure your carrier is large enough to fit your cat comfortably. It doesn’t need to be humungous, tho. It is important that you can still carry it!
Now that we’ve discussed the important, preliminary details, let’s talk about HOW to get your cat into their carrier!
- Keep your carrier in plain sight. Some people keep their carriers out year round, so their cats can lay in them and not be upset by their presence. If you don’t keep your carrier out all the time, you will want to bring it out at least one week before your appointment.
- Make it inviting! Try putting a towel or a bed in it to help attract your cat to laying inside of it. You can sprinkle some catnip or put some treats in front of it and lead a trail into the carrier. Using yummy treats and catnip is a good way to let your cat investigate the carrier on their terms and associate it with great rewards!
- Feliway If you’ve never heard of Feliway, it is a great asset for cat owners! According to the Feliway website, “Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking the cat’s natural facial pheromones, Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. As a result, Feliway can be used to help comfort and reassure cats while they cope with a challenging situation and help prevent or reduce the stress caused by a change in their environment.” Most local veterinary hospitals sell it and it comes as a spray, diffuser or wipes. I have used Feliway during house moves and trips to the vets and it always helps to keep my cats calm. Spray or wipe the inside of the carrier down with Feliway about 30 minutes before you want to put your cat into it.
- Don’t try to rush the process of putting your cat into the carrier. Expect that it may take some time. We always suggest closing all bedroom doors, blocking access to places where your cat can hide – like under couches, behind appliances, etc. It may even be beneficial to withhold their meal before their appointment and then feed them in the bathroom. This way, you can close them into the bathroom and have a small, contained area to work in.
- Get your carrier ready. If you have a soft mesh carrier or hard-sided carrier with a door at the top, then make sure the side doors are all CLOSED and the top door is open. If you have a hard sided carrier with the opening on the side, then stand the carrier up on the opposite side, so that the doorway is open in the air. This will allow you to carefully, place the cat in – feet first and close the door.
- Use a towel. Try picking your cat up using a towel to wrap their body and legs. Some cats find this soothing and won’t put up a fight.
If your cat does fight, you may need to hold the extra fur behind their head, called the scruff. Using one hand on the scruff and use your other hand to hold their back feet and support their butt. Then, you can safely, pick them up and place them into the carrier. You don’t want to hold the cat by the scruff without having your other hand under their hind end to help support their body weight.
- Be confident when placing your cat into the carrier. You don’t want to hurt them but don’t want them to get away from you, either.
- CLOSE THE DOOR QUICKLY and make sure it’s securely locked before you take your hand away! We’ve seen lots of cat owners successfully place their cat into the carrier, only to not double check that the door is securely fastened and guess what?! Their cat’s walk or run right back out!
Once your cat is safely in the carrier, you may want to grab an extra towel or bedding just in case they go to the bathroom in the carrier. Most carriers can be safely buckled into your car, so remember to look for a special latch at the top of the crate when you put them into the car.
Keep an eye on your cat while they’re in the carrier. Most cats don’t breathe with an open mouth normally. If you notice your cat has started to do this, it is typically a sign of stress, so you will want to mention it to your veterinary staff once you arrive. They should put you in an exam room, where it is quieter – instead of the waiting room with other cats and dogs – to wait for the doctor.
If you are too nervous or have had a bad experience putting your cat into their carrier, talk to your veterinarian. They should be able to recommend medication to help your pet relax or a service who can come and put your cat safely into their carrier for you.