For the safety of your cat, and also for your safety when driving, it is important to use a secure carrier when transporting your cat to the vet. However, for many cat owners, the most difficult part of a trip to the vet is actually getting the cat into the carrier. If the cat carrier only comes out right before a trip to the veterinarian, your cat learns to associate the carrier with an unpleasant experience and will likely bolt at the first sign of the carrier or crate. There are some steps you can take to make the process less stressful.
Your main goal is to get your cat to think of the carrier as a pleasant place to be. Choose a carrier or crate that is the correct size; your cat should be easily able to sit, stand and turn around in the carrier. Make sure the carrier is not too big, or the carrier won’t feel cozy. The carrier should be sturdy, well-ventilated, and easy for you to carry. Many people find that it is easier to place a cat inside a top-loading carrier rather than one with the opening on the side. There should be something soft on the bottom of the carrier. If the carrier doesn’t come equipped with a pad, place a blanket or towel on the bottom of the carrier. Your cat will probably appreciate a few small, familiar cat toys placed inside, and many cats find an article of clothing that carries your scent to be comforting.
Don’t just bring out the carrier immediately before the veterinary visit. Try to keep the crate or carrier out and accessible to your cat. Keep the door of the crate open and allow your cat to come and go as he or she pleases. Placing a few cat treats inside may entice your cat inside, or you can even try feeding your cat inside the carrier.
Once your cat is comfortable spending time in the carrier, try closing the door for a few moments and eventually progress to picking up the closed carrier with your cat inside. Next, practice walking carrying the crate with your cat inside. Finally, try taking short car trips with your cat in his or her carrier. Eventually, your cat will realize that not every trip in the car ends at the vet’s office.
While it can take time and patience, most cats can learn to enjoy or at least tolerate the carrier. And, as much as many cats dislike the carrier, almost all cats are quick to leap back into the carrier as soon as the veterinary exam has been completed.