Making Travel & Vet Visits With Your Cat Less Stressful

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Most cats find travelling outside their home to be a very stressful experience.
Cats aren’t stupid, they know that the cat carrier means a trip to the vet where they will very likely be poked and prodded, often when they are already feeling poorly or sore. Or it could be a trip to the cattery while you are away on holiday, either way your cat knows that the cat carrier is not a good thing. I’m sure that more than a few of you have tried getting your cat through that small opening in the cat carrier and ended up completely stressed, with a few battle wounds and a missing cat!

We’ve all been here!
How to make travelling less stressful

1. If possible leave the cat carrier in your home (rather than the shed or garage) with a nice cosy bed in it. Rewarding your cat with a tasty treat when he or she chooses to go near or into the carrier , should encourage  frequent use and ensure your cat doesn’t always associate it with nasty trips. It also means that your cat learns to feel safe in there.

2. Make sure the carrier is sturdy and escape Two comfortable and happy kittiesproof once the door is closed. The last thing you want is a stressed cat leaping about in the car on the way to the veterinary surgery or cattery, or worse escaping while you are in a car park miles away from home.

3. Choose your carrier carefully. It is much easier to pick up a cat and pop him into the open top of a basket/carrier, rather than trying to force him through a small doorway in the front – if his feet are on the floor it is much easier to escape! If you can’t get a top opening carrier, my tip is to position the carrier so that the door is facing upwards and gently put the cat in.

4. It is always a good idea to have some sort of absorbent liner in the carrier in case your cat has an accident. Absorbent pet bedding such as Vet-Bed can be used or you could get some incontinence pads which are quite cheap to buy and easily cut to size.

5. Using Feliway (www.feliway.co.uk) spray in the carrier 15 minutes before you place you cat into it may help to keep your cat calmer on the journey and at the vets. Feliway helps cats naturally cope with stressful situations and is available from your veterinary practice or in some of the bigger pet stores.

6. If you are going to be travelling a long distance with your cat, ensure that he or she has access to fresh water. For very long journeys a larger travelling crate with room for a litter tray and somewhere to hide may make for a happier kitty. You may also want to consider chatting to your vet about medication to help your cat feel calmer on the journey; as well as using Feliway, products such as Zylkene or Scullcap & Valerian may also be helpful.

putting cat into upended carrier
How to place your cat into a front opening carrier
Turn the basket onto its end so the door is facing upwards. Have someone steady the carrier to prevent it from tipping over. Gently lower the cat into the carrier and close the door.
To avoid stress at the veterinary surgery

Put your cat in a carrier when you visit your vet because your cat will feel much more secure in there than if he or she were loose in your arms. There are cat harnesses available, but if your veterinary practice isn’t lucky enough to have a separate cat waiting area, your cat will be terrified and have nowhere to hide if a dog comes into the waiting room.

Turn your cat carrier around so that it’s door is facing a wall , chairback or yourself (obviously this doesn’t apply to top-opening carriers!). Some cats are also much happier with a towel or small blanket over the top of their carrier to give them even more privacy, especially if they are in a wire basket.

Try not to sit close to any dogs who might be visiting the vets. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen dogs being allowed to sniff the carrier containing a terrified kitty who cannot escape, and the dog owner saying “it’s ok, he’s good with cats” and the cat owner replying “Oh yes, it’s fine she lives with a dog” Poor cat!  The same applies to other cats, it is best to face them away from each other when possible.

If you have any questions regarding travelling medications and dosage, please contact your veterinary practice for advice

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I am a qualified and registered Veterinary Nurse with over 20 years experience working with small animals.

i currently work for Castle Vets Pet Healthcare Centre in Reading, which is a large, single center, small animal veterinary practice.

The recently rebuilt premises now includes a separate but integrated cat clinic, outstanding in-patient wards and operating theatres, spacious comfortable waiting areas, 9 consulting rooms for both veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse consultations, diagnostics room with x-ray, ultrasound and endoscopy equipment and a well equipped laboratory.

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44 thoughts on “Making Travel & Vet Visits With Your Cat Less Stressful

  1. Excellent information. Thank you for taking the time to put this post together. Purrseidon was ‘crate trained’ from 4 weeks on, so loves her little carrier, and still goes there if she is feeling stressed… even though it is now a bit of a squeeze.

      1. One follower commented that the timing of the article was excellent because of the upcoming blagpaws convention. I thought it was particularly pertinent because school was out for the summer.

          1. I never think to do that, either. Shoot, I usually get distracted by pet information and humor and forget to mention my novels. Fortunately, I usually (not always) remember to post sales.

  2. This is really useful. Even though the vet’s is just 20 minutes away, my cat gets really agitated and it takes a lot of time to calm her down once we are back from the vet’s. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. I cannot lift my cats, I shoo them in. Caught in some corner I have the tom that far that he goes in himself, after LOUD COMPLAINTS … while the little one has soiled half the flat before I get her in. I do not even touch them with my hands (I love my skin and hang on to it) – I only touch them wrapped with a cover. The little one keeps soiling in the carrier, so the incontinence pad advice is very welcome!

  4. my cats:
    *in the house when no need to move* : sleeping happily inside the carrier (i put a pillow too) all day
    *while transferring to the vet with the same carrier* screaming pack of demons trying to thread everyone into pieces.

    1. So like my house! Even switching carriers so there is not one particular “vet” carrier they know. How to beat psychics who can read your mind.

      1. still trying to find a solution. The veterinarian said that they just have a defiant personality and there is nothing more i can do. -.- Sorry you deal with the same thing.

  5. I find that valium works wonders. For me, not the cat. 🙂
    I found the Feliway on Amazon with mixed reviews and a hefty price tag (ships from Thailand?), but if it helps at all it’s priceless.

  6. Those tips are great! I especially like the one with overturning the cat carrier. It would be very useful if Tess didn’t voluntarily go inside already! xD

  7. I keep my carriers out all the time in different out of the way locations. All my cats will nap in a carrier or use it as a safe place if they are having a spat with one of the other cats. It does not always guarantee cooperation when a trip to the vet is necessary but it helps. Also, should you need to leave in a hurry for an emergency, the carriers are ready. I live quite near railroad tracks and realized I could save valuable time if I ever had to evacuate.

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