Helen’s Top 10 Travel Tips for your Fearful Feline!
Our head nurse Helen gained a distinction level in her ISFM Certificate for Feline Nursing, and is one of our ambassadors for being a tip top Gold Standard Cat Friendly Practice.
When bringing your cat to our surgery, the journey itself can sometimes be the first hurdle to overcome; a stressed and anxious cat can often make a stressed and anxious owner. It is for that reason we we asked Helen to come up with our top tips for transporting cats to the vets, to help make your moggy’s visit to us as stress-free as possible.
So, here are Helens Top 10 Travel Tips if your friendly feline turns into a fighting feline at the sight of the cat carrier to visit the vets!
1 Things to avoid
Avoid cardboard cat carriers; your cat could easily escape and the carrier can also become damaged very easily. Homemade carriers are also not recommended, as they might not be comfortable or safe for your pet. Transporting your cat without any carrier is also unsafe; the risk of escape is extremely high and this could cause an accident!
2 Choose a suitable carrier
Make sure your carrier is made out of a durable material. Something that is easy to clean will work well in case your pet should have an accident. A cat carrier that opens at the top is a lot easier to get your cat in, rather than a front opening carrier. Also make sure you choose the right size carrier – one that is too large could cause your cat to fall about during the journey adding unnecessary stress. Additionally, we suggest ensuring the carrier is secured with a seat belt to prevent any sliding around in the car.
3 Pre-plan for any little accidents
Placing the carrier on an absorbent towel will help should your cat have an accident; it will also help to keep the carrier steady. If you know your cat is likely to soil the carrier during the journey, be prepared with a spare familiar smelling bed that you can change should you need to
4 Preparing your cat for the journey
If your journey is planned, bring the cat carrier indoors and place it in a location of the house that your cat likes to spend time. Have the carrier open with a familiar smelling bed placed inside, preferably one that your cat likes to sleep on. This will encourage your cat to happily explore the carrier and want to sit or lie in it. By having the carrier out for a few days prior, it will smell familiar and the cat will smell reassuring scents during the journey. You could also put meals in the carrier beforehand, so your companion associates it with tasty treats!
We would avoid bringing out the carrier immediately before a trip to the vets as some cats will associate this with fear or a bad experience, therefore resisting entering the carrier. We know that sometimes an emergency trip is unavoidable, but if they have a positive view of the carrier beforehand, the process can be a lot smoother.
If after trying the above your cat is still fearful and refusing to go into the carrier, try keeping the carrier close by but out of sight. Using a large towel, wrap your cat so they cannot use their legs to try and escape, and then quickly place them – still wrapped in the towel – straight into the carrier.
5 Be clever with pheromones
Use a damp cloth to wipe around your cats face to pick up pheromones from their facial scent glands. Then, using the same cloth, wipe all around the inside of the carrier. This will deposit the pheromones and help to reassure your cat during transportation. Alternatively, we advise using a synthetic pheromone spray called Feliway to spray inside the carrier at least 15 minutes before travel. This will help relax your cat during the journey
6 Two hour no food rule
To reduce your cat feeling nauseous during the journey, withhold food for about 2 hours prior to the car journey. It is also helpful to save any tasty treats for helping tempt your cat to participate when you are in the surgery.
7 Cover the carrier with a towel
Always cover the carrier with a large towel during transportation so your cat doesn’t feel frightened by all of the unfamiliar sights whizzing past. If you were a small cat, you would probably be nervous about the speed too!
8 Drive quietly and slowly
During the journey in the car keep the radio turned off and keep as quiet as possible so not to frighten your cat. Drive nice and steady and avoid any sudden movements. Keep calm yourself; you don’t want your cat to sense any additional anxiety!
9 Be careful with the carrier when you get to the surgery
Once you arrive at the vet surgery, avoid swinging or banging the carrier by carrying it in your arms. It’s also important to avoid any face-to-face meetings with dogs (for obvious reasons!). Ideally, keep the carrier off of floor level and away from any hustle and bustle, keeping your cat happy and relaxed.
10 If your cat is still anxious, use Nutracalm
You might already know that your cat gets stressed during trips to the vets, even if you try to be clever beforehand. For this, we recommend a product called Nutracalm. This can be given to your cat on the day of the scheduled journey to help to reduce stress levels. Nutracalm is a combination of ingredients, one of which is an amino acid called L-Tryptophan. This amino acid is involved in the production of the hormone serotonin, which has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
We hope that Helens advice will help you have a stress-free experience on the way to our surgery. To find out more about how we achieved our Gold Standard status as a Top Cat Friendly practice you can click here to read more about what we do, and watch out for more cat friendly blog posts coming soon!