Like anything else, cats can be trained to be much more comfortable with their carriers, cars, and trips to the veterinary clinic. It takes a little preparation and patience, but will greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and our ability to help you cat when needed. I never like to see cats transported in diaper boxes, other boxes, pillow cases (yes, it’s been done), laundry baskets. This is not safe and is scary for your cat.
Start carrier training as soon as possible. Starting when they are kittens teaches your pet that the carrier is just another fun hiding place. Carriers that load from the top and sides or especially those that come apart in the middle are helpful. Sometimes we do our exams right in the carrier if it makes the cat feel less anxious. Place the carrier in a room that the cat likes to be in. Add a soft and cozy bed to the carrier and this may encourage your cat to snuggle in their often.
Offer favorite toys and treats right inside the carrier to make it a favorite place to go!
Intermittently you should close the door for a brief period while your cat is distracted by a toy or treat. This will allow your cat to feel accustomed to the door being closed without feeling “trapped”.
Begin car rides by starting off super slow. Perhaps you just place your cat in the carrier in the car for a moment and eventually you will be taking short rides with simple pleasures—perhaps a trip to your favorite pet store for a new favorite toy!
Cover the carrier when traveling. When you start taking the carrier in the car, place a towel over it; cats usually feel safer this way.
Consider using Feliway, a pheromonal anti-anxiety spray, just before traveling. When the time for the examination arrives, the routine will be familiar and your cat will be much more comfortable.
With especially nervous or suspicious cats, Feliway can help with the initial training period as well. Some cats can benefit from “Thundershirts” that give them the feeling of a secure hug. Some cats respond to cat nip positively and some to real lavender oil.
Let us know if we can give you any further tips!