7 Tips When Traveling with Your Cat to the Vet

Posted on March 13, 2015 under Cat Training and Behavior

A kitten waits in a crate after traveling to the veterinarian.

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Unlike dogs, cats prefer to be homebodies. The first sighting of you lugging out the pet carrier just may send your cat dashing to under the middle of your king-sized bed – strategically positioned just out of arm’s reach from any side of the bed.

Most cats practice what I call feline algebra: C (Car) + C (Carrier) = C (Veterinary Clinic). That is an equation that can cause much disdain and even a bit of fright in some felines.

We humans need to take most of the blame for our cats’ panic attacks. After all, we don’t travel with our cats like we do with our dogs and usually the only time cats are in crates are when they must go someplace unpleasant ­ like a visit to the veterinary clinic. If you knew each time you heard the jingle of car keys that you were going to see your least favorite – and chattiest – relative you would want to dash and hide too.

Here are seven ways to make the visit to the veterinary clinic far more appealing to your cat:

1. Make the carrier a friend, not a foe. Do so by purposely leaving your cat’s carrier out and open inside your home. Located it in a favorite catnap spot. Up its feline real estate appeal by lining the carrier’s floor with a comfy towel or bedding.

2. Toss in treats and toys inside the carrier for your cat to pursue and enjoy. Casually, close the carrier door for a few seconds and then open it. Gradually, lengthen the duration to build up your cat’s tolerance of being inside.

3. Do a test drive inside your home. Tote your cat inside his carrier around your house and then open the door. Time this in-home trip right before meal time, so your cat’s travel “reward” is awaiting him after his trek.

4. Shift into the parked position. Get your cat accustomed to car rides gradually. Start by hanging out with your cat in his carrier inside your parked car. Reward him with small healthy treats for being calm.

5. Create a mobile sound distraction. During the ride, tune the car radio to a jazz or blues station at a low volume. Also, try to avoid any sudden, jarring stops.

6. Make the veterinary exam room more feline “fang shui.” Bring a thick bath towel to the veterinary clinic so your cat doesn’t have to get a chill from the stainless steel exam table. Also, you – or that savvy veterinary tech – can wrap your cat in the towel (think kitty “purrito”) to keep him calm during an examination. Towels can bring out the calm in many cats.

7. Book wellness appointments. Cats are masters at masking pain and may not show any outward signs until a disease is in the advanced stages. Counter that feline mindset by purposely taking your cat at least once a year – ideally twice a year – for wellness visits. You will give your cat more exposure to the veterinarian and staff under more pleasant circumstances and may even catch conditions early enough to extend your cat’s life and save on your veterinary bills.

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