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A Fear Free Approach to Transporting Cats to the Vet

By Megan Young

Transporting cats to the vet can be stressful. Effective preparation is a key part of a successful visit to the vet. The following tips will help reduce fear, anxiety, and stress for your cat during the process.

The first step begins long before the day of the visit with the choice of an appropriate carrier.

  • The carrier may be hard or soft.
  • The carrier should have at least two openings.
  • The carrier should be large enough for your cat to turn around and lay down, but small enough for them to feel safe and secure.
  • The carrier should be easily taken apart to use as a bed at home and, if needed, during an examination at the vet.

Leaving out the carrier in your home will help it become familiar and prevent them from associating it with a trip to the vet.

  • For kittens, teach them young to sleep in the carrier.  For older cats, take out the carrier from storage and help them become familiar.
  • Choose a place that the cat already likes to rest.  Your cat may prefer that the carrier is on an elevated surface, instead of the ground.
  • Put the cat’s favorite things around the carrier. Place a pheromone-infused towel (i.e Feliway) or clothing permeated with your scent inside the carrier.
  • Play with them and feed the cat near the carrier.
  • When the cat enters the carrier on their own, immediately reward them with food and praise.
  • If they do not immediately love the carrier, don’t worry. Slow and steady wins the race.

When it comes time for a vet visit, lower your cat into the carrier, reward them, close the door, cover the carrier with a towel, and transport to the veterinary facility.

  • Keep comfortable bedding or clothing, toys, and treats (if medically appropriate) in the carrier during transport.
  • Covering with a pheromone-infused towel will keep out external stimuli.
  • Transport the cat in the carrier on the floor behind the passenger seat for your safety as well as the cats.  Play calm, familiar music in the car, or simply, silence.
  • Do not use the carrier’s handle when the cat is inside. This motion may upset the cat.  When you enter the veterinary facility, there may already be dogs in the lobby that your cat could be eye-level with.  Instead, carry as if you’re holding a fragile gift. Hold the carrier with both hands near your chest.
  • When you arrive at the vet, place the cat in the carrier on an elevated surface such as a chair, bench, or counter.  Cats feel safer when elevated. Keep the carrier covered until you have entered the quiet exam room.

We hope that these tips help you and your cat have a less stressful trip to the vet.  For more information about reducing fear, anxiety, and stress at home visit Fear Free Happy Homes.