Tips for Transporting Cats to the Vet

Two cats taking sun, one inside on a cat carrier and one above.

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Transporting your cat to the vet can often be as stressful for you as it is for him or her.  Problems arising from attempting to bring a cat to the vet is one of the primary reasons cat parents tend to shy away from wellness visits, rather only bringing a cat in when he or she is visibly ill.  As a veterinarian who focuses on preventive care, it pains me to sometimes only see cat patients when they are sick rather than on an annual wellness visit. To aid cat parents in reducing the stress that is often part of every trip to the vet, I have prepared a few helpful tips to make your cat’s next visit much more pleasant.

The most important component of transporting your cat to the vet is the carrier.  Unfortunately, the carrier is often where problems begin. Too often the carrier only comes out of storage for transportation and for cats the unfamiliar is avoided.  To improve the carrier’s attractiveness to your cat do not hide it away in storage, rather make it a piece of your furniture. Place the carrier where your cat tends to rest and if possible, put the carrier up high and off the floor, as cats usually like elevated resting areas.  Leave the top open if it is a soft carrier, and take the top half off for hard carriers.

As your cat becomes comfortable with the carrier in its resting area, further entice your cat to go inside by placing some of your cat’s favorite items around the carrier.  Play with your cat around the carrier as well. I also recommend taking an old shirt or sweater that has your familiar scent on it and place inside the carrier to increase attractiveness.  You can also spray Feliway, a calming pheromone for cats, on the carrier and bedding. As your cat becomes more and more used to the carrier, place favorite treats or bits of food inside the carrier, eventually feeding your cat’s meals near the carrier.  Continual praise and treats will positively reinforce this behavior and over time your cat will have no issue with naturally going inside the carrier when it is time to go to the vet.

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