You know the feeling. The vet check-up is imminent and you know it needs to be done but your cat won’t cooperate. Cats are territorial animals that love their own space. So, it’s not surprising that they hate being confined in a cat carrier, whilst surrounded by loud, unfamiliar sounds and car vibrations.
Regular vet visits are essential for keeping your beloved kitty healthy. The constant yowling and complaining, on the other hand, can be upsetting for both of you. So, what’s the answer?
Luckily, there is a vast range of cat calming products on the market to soothe anxious kitties suffering from cat travel anxiety, such as cat calming sprays, and calming collars for cats. However, these work best as aids alongside positive reinforcement training. So, if you’re serious about helping your cat to remain calm during car journeys to the vet, you will need to put in a bit of work. Remember, it will all be worth it in the end!
The first step is to purchase the right cat carrier for your cat.
What’s the best cat carrier for scared cats?
Training for cat travel anxiety starts at home, by helping your cat to build positive associations with their cat carrier.
There are many types of cat carriers available on the market including soft and hard-sided carriers. The one you choose to go with will be dependent on your cat’s size and temperament. Although you might be recommended a certain type of carrier as the best cat carrier for a scared cat, it’s not necessarily going to be the the right carrier for your cat. So here are a few things to take into consideration when you do start looking:
Size matters: A cat carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. However, don’t make the mistake of going too large because this will cause your cat to slide around during transit.
Hard or soft: This is the big question when it comes to purchasing the right carrier for your cat.. Both hard-sided and soft-sided carriers have their own benefits and downsides. Hard-sided carriers are incredibly sturdy and easy to clean if your cat has an accident. However, they can be bulky and heavy. Soft-sided carriers are much easier to carry and can offer a better sense of security for more nervous cats. But, they are difficult to clean and some cats will be able to scratch through the material. Think about your cat’s needs and personality before making a choice.
Make the cat carrier a positive space
So, you have bought a cat carrier but what do you do next? The key is to make the cat carrier a safe and inviting space for your cat.
Place it in a room that your cat spends a lot of time in. Make sure you leave the carrier open and add a familiar blanket, a couple of toys, or a few treats to entice your cat to investigate. You should also add an item with your scent on it as this will offer a sense of security. Cats rely heavily on their acute sense of smell so, this is a great way to help your cat feel safe.
If your cat still seems nervous, you can also add a few pumps of a cat calming spray into the carrier, such as the Feliway Classic Spray. The unique cat calming technology mimics the natural calming facial pheromones given off by cats. So, it can go a long way toward reassuring your cat.
Additionally, you can use a calming collar for cats to help your kitty adjust to the new cat carrier, such as the Sentry Cat Calming Collar. Cat calming collars release calming pheromones continuously, right under your cat’s nose for up to 30 days. However, they are best used on cats that are already used to wearing a collar. Otherwise, you may run the risk of increasing their anxiety further!
Leave the cat carrier out like this for a couple of weeks before your cat’s vet visit is due, to give them time to get used to it. Remember to offer treats and fuss whenever they approach the carrier. You can even feed them next to or in the carrier. However, the most important thing is to move slowly and don’t be afraid to go back a step if your cat seems anxious.
Most cat carriers have multiple entry and exit points so leave all of these open in the beginning to reassure your cat that they won’t get trapped.
Never force your cat into a cat carrier as this is likely to make their anxiety much worse.
Prepare your car
Just like the cat carrier, your car needs to be perceived as a calm, safe space. For some cats, it can be beneficial for you to allow them to investigate the car when the engine is turned off. However, if you’re worried that your kitty is going to get themselves stuck under the pedals, there are plenty of other ways to create a calming environment:
Play classical music: Certain types of classical music have been proven to calm cats. You can even buy music specifically designed for your feline companions. Just play the music at a low level to create a serene environment for your cat.
Set a comfortable temperature: Turn the car heater on for a few minutes if it’s too cold, or ramp up the air conditioning if it’s warm. Do this before placing your cat in the car to ensure the temperature is comfortable for them.
Use a calming product: Spray a few pumps of a cat calming spray, such as Feliway Classic Spray, in your car 15-20 minutes before your journey to create a calm, reassuring environment for your cat. You can also consider using a calming collar for cats but make sure your kitty is used to the feel of it before going on your journey.
Be calm: Despite their independent natures, cats still rely on our subtle body cues to determine whether a situation is safe or not. If you are running around stressed, you’re more likely to increase your cat’s anxiety. Instead, remain calm and talk in a soft soothing voice.
Secure your cat carrier in the car: It can be tempting to strap the cat carrier in the passenger seat, so you can offer constant reassurance during the drive. However, this isn’t always the best option. Placing your cat carrier in the backseat footwell is better because there will be less movement and the carrier will be more secure.
You can also drape over a towel scented with a cat calming spray for the duration of the journey. Some cats like to see out when you are driving whereas others prefer their own privacy. So, a little bit of trial and error may be needed to determine what works best for your kitty.
Arriving at the vets
The less movement your cat experiences in the cat carrier, the calmer they will be. So, when you arrive at the vet’s, consider ringing the surgery to tell them you are outside. Many vets will be more than happy to allow you to remain outside until they are ready to see you. This way, your cat will experience less stressful stimuli that come with waiting in the lobby, including the smell of unfamiliar animals and loud noises.
Final Thoughts on Reducing Cat Stress When Visiting the Vet
Cats are lovers of routine and familiar territory, so traveling to the vet’s can be a highly stressful experience. By taking the time to introduce your cat slowly to new environments and stimuli, you will be able to reduce their anxiety and make the journey much more enjoyable for both of you.
Remember that cat calming products can be great aids to soothe an anxious kitty, including cat calming sprays and calming collars for cats. However, remember that the first step is always to find the best cat carrier for your cat, to ensure a safe, comfortable journey.