A reader asks if she can make the cat carrier a less traumatic experience for her cat...
Q) My cat is terrified of the cat carrier. Every time I’ve tried to take her to the vet’s she runs away and it’s very traumatic for both of us to get her into the carrier. What can I do?
A) KIM SAYS: If you have a cat that is fearful of the cat carrier, you are not on your own! Many cats will disappear into hiding as soon as the carrier is brought out. Unfortunately, the carrier is often linked with unpleasant things, such as a trip to the vet or cattery. This leads to the cat forming a negative association with the carrier. However, chasing your cat and then trying to force her into the carrier will ultimately make the problem much worse.
What we need to do is change her perception of the carrier; we want her to view it as a positive and comfortable space, rather than a feared place. First of all, bring the carrier into the house a few weeks before you need to use it and place it in one of your cat’s favourite locations. Place a familiar comfy blanket and a few of your cat’s favourite treats on the bottom of the carrier to hopefully tempt her in. Leave the door open and let her investigate in her own time. This stage could take days and perhaps weeks in a fearful cat so please be patient and go at your cat’s pace. Never force your cat into the carrier.
When your cat reliably goes in and out of the carrier without displaying any fear or anxiety, you can close the door for a few seconds, but please ensure that you reward her with an extra special treat — we want her to think that all good things happen when she enters the carrier. Repeat this process over a few of days until see seems content with the door being closed.
Finally, when she is relaxed in the carrier with the door closed for 2 — 3 minutes, very carefully pick it up for a few seconds and then place gently back down. If she remains calm during this process, give her lots of praise and another a treat. Once she is comfortable doing this, move the empty carrier to a different location to allow her to familiarise herself with it again.
Please pay attention to your cat and if she shows any signs of distress then go back a few stages. Good luck!