Although cats now outnumber dogs among pets in the United States, they comprise less than 20% of veterinary visits. This doesn’t mean cat owners love their pets less. It’s usually because transporting a cat can be extremely stressful for the cat and the owner. Unfortunately, this can have a direct impact on a cat’s health. While the family dog benefits from early detection that an annual exam can reveal, cats often arrive at the veterinary office only when the medical problem has advanced and treatment options are limited.
To end a cat’s anxiety associated with a carrier, positive activities like meals, play, and treats should happen around the carrier. While it’s best to start the process when they are kittens, mature cats can be conditioned to accept the carrier as well. The first step is to take the carrier out of the closet and make it a part of the cat’s daily environment. Place the carrier in the area where the cat eats and, over the course of several weeks, gradually move the food bowl closer to the carrier, and eventually place the food bowl just inside the door. Including the carrier in playtime with your cat will also be helpful. For example, tie a string to a mouse toy and pull it around and into the carrier with the cat in pursuit. If your cat loves the laser pointer, let the beam travel into the carrier. Once a cat is not afraid of the carrier, it becomes a comfort when traveling, not a source of anxiety.
Originally published August 2014 in the Weekly Herald