Do you hate visiting the vet because it’s hard to get your cat in the carrier? Then you’re not the only one. An American study shows that according to 58% of cat owners their cat hates going to the vet. 38% of them just think the idea of taking the cat to the vet is too stressful, mainly because the cat is afraid of the carrier and driving in the car. The stress associated with just transporting the cat to the vet is one of the main reasons that about 52% of cats in America never visit a vet…
The visit to the vet often starts with a chase through the house to be able to put the cat in his carrier. So before a cat is at the vet, he has already had his first negative experience. This is often followed by the journey in the car, a painful injection and the return journey in the car. No matter how well the vet does it’s best to ensure a pleasant, stress-free experience, they are in fact already 2-0 behind. Next time, this accumulation of negative experiences will make it even harder to get your cat into the carrier. This is unnecessary: you can teach your cat to love his carrier!
Purchasing a carrier
Before we give you tips on how to make sure your cat sees his carrier as a nice, safe place, it’s important to see if your carrier is suitable. The ideal cat carrier can be opened from the front as well as from the top. This way we don’t have to pull the cat out of the carrier once in practice: we can simply detach the top of the carrier so that the cat can stay in his or her safe place.
Wicker baskets with a round opening look nice, but are actually not suitable for transport to the vet. If the cat doesn’t want to come out of the basket by itself, there are only two ways to examine the cat: grab the cat through the opening and pull it out of the basket, or turn the basket around and try to shake the cat out. This is very frightening and stressful for a cat.
Some people do not carry their cat in a carrier, but carry their cat in their arms. We do not recommend this. The cat may be frightened in the waiting room by the presence of other animals and suddenly flee from your arms. Unfortunately, it has happened before that a cat went missing in this way. A carrier is the safest way to transport the cat, especially if your cat likes his carrier.
Train your cat to love his carrier
Your cat’s carrier should become his or her favorite place. This doesn’t happen by itself, it takes some training. But once the cat sees his or her carrier as a nice, safe place, he or she will automatically walk into the carrier. Scary places like the car or the vet will also be less frightening if the cat feels safe in his carrier.
The goal of this training is to give the cat a positive association with his or her carrier. Something that all cats are motivated to do something for, is food. After all, all cats need food to survive. In addition, food causes positive emotions to be felt. So we are going to link the carrier to food. Follow the following step-by-step plan for this:
Leave the carrier in a place where the cat can easily reach it. Keep the door of the carrier open. Most people put the carrier in the barn or store it in a closet, so the carrier only appears when the cat has to go to the vet. By leaving the carrier in a clearly visible place, the cat gets used to the carrier and doesn’t flee after just looking at the dreaded carrier.
Make the carrier comfortable by putting your cat’s favourite blanket inside.
Give your cat all meals near the carrier. The distance from the food to the carrier depends on your cat. If your cat is not very afraid of the carrier, you can put the food just before the opening. If you notice that your cat does not want to come near the food bowl, increase the distance.
If the cat is comfortable to eat at this location, the food bowl can be moved closer and closer to the carrier until the food bowl is just in the opening of the carrier. Your cat should now stick his or her head inside to eat. If your cat immediately sticks his or her head in to eat, and doesn’t keep walking backwards and looking around, you can go a step further.
Move the food bowl further and further into the carrier until your cat eventually has to step fully into the carrier to eat.
Put sweets or toys in the travel basket during the day. The purpose of this is for your cat to regularly step into the carrier in search of sweets or toys.
Your cat will like the carrier if he or she gets in and out of the carrier regularly and quietly. If your cat runs out of the carrier or seems restless when he or she comes out of the carrier, step back.
If your cat chooses to lie down in the carrier, close the door. You can also close the door while eating. Don’t keep the door closed for too long the first few times.
With most cats it takes about a week until they step into the carrier on their own, without food in the carrier. But don’t hold on to this guideline too much and look at your cat. It’s wiser if you take a few days longer in stead of trying to force the process on your cat.
It’s best to teach your cat that the carrier is fine and safe if he or she is still a kitten. This does not mean that it is not possible for older cats to learn this! However, the process may take longer because your cat may already have a negative association with the carrier. But as long as you’re patient, any cat can learn to love his or her carrier. If it doesn’t work out, feel free to ask me for extra advice or guidance.