Reducing cat carrier stress

Studies have shown that cats are seen by veterinarians on average far less frequently than dogs.  And why is this?  There can be many reasons, but one reason important to note may be that cats are so good at hiding pain.

Often times, an owner is waiting for symptoms before bringing them in for an annual wellness exam. The pet owner simply does not realize their cat needs medical care until medical conditions have reached critical stages.  It’s important for cat owners to understand that a veterinarian listening to the kitty’s heart and skillfully feeling their kidneys and intestines annually can save their pet’s life.


Another reason may be that kitty does not want to leave home, and the mere sight of a cat carrier can be cause for alarm.  You find your cat suddenly disappears, hides under the bed or in a closet, or cowers in a corner behind a piece of furniture the moment they see the carrier come out or even sense a change is about to occur.

If this is the case, here are some simple tips on how to ease your feline’s stress and make the trip to the veterinarian more pleasant:

1) Start with a carrier that has hard sides and opens from both the top and front. An easily removable top allows a fearful cat or one that is ill and in pain to stay on the bottom half of the carrier if necessary.

2) Take the carrier out at least a day (or more) ahead of the planned trip. Place it in an area where the cat is normally comfortable and at rest. Give your cat time to explore the carrier on its own, and reward your cat with a treat if you find it sitting near the carrier or even inside it. If possible, consider leaving the carrier out all the time, so the carrier becomes a fixture in your cat’s environment is not associated only with trips.

Cat exploring carrier

3) Place soft, familiar bedding inside the carrier.  Add treats, catnip or toys to entice your cat to go inside, explore and even play.

4) Try a stress reducer such as Feliway. This product sold as a spray or diffuser is actually a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone.  This pheromone is used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure.  By simply spraying Feliway on a towel or bedding and placing it inside the cat carrier at least 30 minutes before you plan to leave your home, you are creating a state of familiarity and security within the carrier. The cat feels a sense of comfort once inside and can more easily cope with what seems a challenging situation.

Cat resting inside carrier

5) Stay calm yourself. Cats can sense their owner’s anxiety. In turn, they become more fearful and anxious. Don’t panic if your cat expresses fear or aggression. Be patient but persistent in placing your cat into the carrier and reward your kitty for positive behavior.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have further questions or need advice.

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital

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