How to Acclimate Your Cat to a Carrier

One of the most common calls receptionists at the hospital receive are clients having difficulty getting their cat into the carrier prior to their appointment. As a Cat Friendly Silver Certified Veterinary Hospital, World of Animals at Elkins Park can help alleviate this stress on owners and cats.

We know that the appointment for your cat starts long before you get to the hospital. In the United States, pet cats predominantly live indoors, and may only leave the house once or twice a year. Additionally, they are a species that thrives on consistency in their environment and their daily schedule. Taking this into consideration, there are a few simple steps that owners can take to make the most of their trip to the vet and avoid scratches as well as unnecessary stress on their beloved pets.

Step #1:

Ideally, the carrier should be out in the house as another area that is part of the cat’s environment. To get your cat acclimated to their carrier long before the appointment. If you don’t already, you can keep the carrier in a quiet place but one in which the family may spend time such as a living room corner or under a side table.

Step #2:

Make the carrier a kitty RV. You can put a comfortable blanket, toys, catnip or treats in there. Do this at least for a week prior to the appointment, but ideally again all year round.

Step #3:

If your cat already has a negative association with the carrier it will take more time and training to get them adjusted. This may be done with feeding the pet closer and closer to the carrier and eventually inside the carrier. Please discuss this with one of our World of Animals’ Veterinarians to get more information.

Step #4:

Do not close the door on the carrier until your pet is regularly relaxing in the carrier, and only do so for a few seconds at a time. To make sure the door doesn’t close on the cat accidentally in the meantime keep the door propped or wired open. From here you can practice with your cat closing the door for longer periods of time (5-10 mins) and even picking the carrier up and then placing it back down to get them used to short periods of time in the carrier.

Additional products that having calming pheromones may be used to assist in transporting your pet such as Feliway, a feline-specific pheromone. Everyone has seen their content and happy cat mark their territory as familiar by rubbing their face against corners, furniture, people, or other pets at home. They leave an odorless message known as a feline facial pheromone. When present in the environment, these pheromones tell cats the area is comfortable and secure. Ask our staff at our Veterinary Hospital for more information about how pheromones can help and for a FREE Happy Cat bag with a sample of pheromone and catnip to help you get your kitty acclimated to his/her carrier.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Getting Your Cat in the Carrier Day of Appointment.

Dr. Laura Tancredi