A common call we get at the vet is "Can we push back the appointment? I brought the carrier out and I haven't seen them since!" It can be so frustrating trying to chase them around the house. Most owners believe they're simply being difficult, but try and picture it from their perspective. Every time they get in that box, they're stuck! They go on a long bumpy ride to a mysterious new place, then all of a sudden, they're getting poked and prodded by a stranger. Would you want to get in?
Unfortunately, we can't tell them exactly why they have to go on this treacherous journey, but we can start helping them by taking away the fear of the crate.
Step 1: Remove the novelty of the crate. For many cats, even the sight of the carrier is enough to send them running. Try setting the crate out in a room that they frequent, do not force your cat to approach the kennel. If they are curious, let them sniff and explore without any pressure. Quietly praise them for being so brave and reward them with their favorite treats!
Step 2: After your cat shows no fear to the crate (this may take up to several days) set their food bowl near the crate entrance (Fig.6.3-A). If your cat refuses to eat, it is too close.
Step 3: The speed at which the next steps go entirely depends of the comfortability of the cat. If you move the food bowl closer to or in the carrier and your cat shies away, they are not ready to move on. The goal is to eventually have them walk confidently in and out of the carrier without any hesitation.
Step 4: Once they are comfortable with finishing their meal in the carrier, begin shutting the door for short periods of time. When they are done eating, immediately open the door.
Step 4: From here, you may continue to feed your cat in their carrier for their daily meals, or move the food bowl back to its original location. If it is moved out, it is important for them to still be rewarded for frequenting or resting in their carrier. Hide some of their favorite treats in the carrier for them to discover on their own. It helps if their crate includes a soft blanket or one of their favorite toys.
Step 5: Congrats! You should now have a cat who tolerates, or even enjoys their carrier. They should find it as a space to rest and relax. Further desensitization can include carrying your cat in their carrier for short periods of time throughout the house, putting them in the car without going to the vet, or keeping them in their carrier for longer periods of time. Don't forget to continue praising and rewarding kitty for an awesome job!
What does your vet want you to know?
Always bring your cat to the vet in a carrier! No matter how reliable they may be at home, the clinic always has loud sounds, unfamiliar smells, and bright lights. The carrier is our first line of defense for their safety, and ours. It always helps for carriers to be easily deconstructed or if there is multiple options to open it. Often times it is difficult or unsafe to remove a cat from their carrier, so vets and assistants will take the top half of the carrier off. This creates a less threatening approach to safely remove them from the carrier. Clips are often preferred over screws when visiting the vet. Hard plastic carriers also make it much easier compared to soft carrier where something kitty can get a claw stuck in.
Below are some staff favorites if your are looking for a new carrier!
Have these articles been useful? Leave a comment below about what your thoughts are, or if there is anything you want me to write about! -Angel