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Carrier Training

At Lawndale, we want to make your feline friend's visit as pleasant as possible. A big awareness has been generated in the veterinary community over the past several years about making cats as comfortable as possible in the veterinary clinic. We continue to explore ideas and techniques that our clinic can implement on a regular basis that will minimize stress for your feline companion. A key component of minimizing the stress of the veterinary visit actually begins with you, the owner, at home - before your cat even makes the trip to the clinic!

Carrier Overview:

  1. In general it is important to note that if you are traveling anywhere, we always recommend you place your cat in a carrier. The majority of cats will be nervous when traveling. A cat who is not in a carrier could run out of the car and get lost as soon as a door is opened, injure someone by scratching or jumping on them, damage the car (with urine for example), or even make the driver more likely to be involved in a car accident (especially if they try and climb under the gas and brake pedals!).
  2. As far as the type of carrier to choose, we have the most success with cats who are in hard plastic carriers that are easily taken apart. Additionally, if they have a door opening in the front and on top, that can be helpful. Many cats may do best being examined inside the carrier, so if we can easily take the top off and reach them, we can keep them in the carrier for most of the exam.

Before the vet visit:

  1. Acclimate your cat to the carrier weeks to months before your cat even needs to travel in the carrier. This could mean your carrier begins to serve as a 'normal' household furniture item. Check out our Cat Carrier Rodeo article for more details.
  2. Consider utilizing the synthetic feline facial pheromone called Feliway. This product can help to calm many cats whenever something is about to change (or has changed) in their environments. Simply spray a towel with the product 20 to 30 minutes before you need to leave the house (this gives the spray time to dry) and place the towel inside the carrier. Be sure to use a towel or blanket that your cat has already been using in the carrier to keep the familiar scents - these familiar scents can also serve to comfort your cat.
  3. If your cat has been acclimated already to the carrier in the weeks to months prior to the visit, you may be able to drop some treats, catnip, or a favorite toy in the carrier and have your cat walk right in on the day of the trip.
  4. As you are leaving, consider covering the carrier with a towel (make sure the carrier is not left anywhere too warm!). This will minimize the visual stimulation of being carried to the car, etc.
  5. Try bringing along a few of your cats favorite toys and treats. We may be able to use these during the exam to help keep your cat comfortable (and possibly playful!).
  6. Here is a video with a great overview of cats and carriers from the Catalyst Council:

Arrival at the clinic:

  1. We will work to get you into an exam room as quickly as possible.
  2. If a room is not immediately available, then we can direct you to a quiet area in the waiting room.
  3. While you wait, place your cat's carrier up on the chair or bench beside you. Since cats tend to prefer to be up higher, this will make them feel more comfortable than setting the carrier on the ground.
  4. Be sure to keep the carrier covered with a towel if there is activity in the waiting rooms.

In the exam room:

  1. Once you are in the exam room and the door is closed, you may open the carrier and give your cat the option to stay in or come out. 
  2. Try and keep noise and commotion to a minimum. This will help your cat to stay calm
  3. Cats may need 5 to 10 minutes to warm up to the new environment, so sometimes all we need is to give them a little time to help them calm down.
  4. If you brought toys, you can try and play with them while waiting.
  5. If you know tricks or things your cat likes or does not like (sitting in laps, being rubbed in certain areas), feel free to share that information with us during the exam.

Hopefully by working together as a team, we can give your cat the best visit possible in our clinic!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS