How to Best Transport your Cat to the Vet

Dr. Bridget Andersen

How you transport your cat to the vet matters. We at Animal Medical Hospital are working to become a certified “Fear Free” hospital.   The term “Fear Free” refers to a movement within veterinary medicine that addresses the emotional welfare of our patients, and the people that love them.  This means that we are making adjustments to our lobby, exam room visits, and hospitalized stays in order to decrease fear, anxiety, and stress.  The first step to a less stressful visit to the veterinarian starts with a positive traveling experience.

  1. Purchase a carrier

    1. Select a hard sided carrier that has a top opening and a front opening.
    2. Make sure that the entire top portion of the carrier can be easily removed so that your cat can remain in the bottom portion of the carrier during the exam for security.  Clasps are preferred over screws because they take less time.
    3. The carrier should be big enough for your cat to stand and turn around but small enough to make your cat feel secure.
  2. Acclimating your cat to the carrier

    1. Keep the carrier in your cat’s environment lifelong so that it is familiar and comforting rather than an evil contraption that only comes out of hiding once a year.  If your cat already has a negative association with the carrier, try taking the top off of the carrier to allow the cat to sleep in the bottom portion.  Choose a location that your cat already prefers- elevated positions are typically most desired.
    2. Feed your cat treats in the carrier or place their food dish near the carrier to help encourage a positive association.
    3. Keep a clean towel or blanket with familiar scents (such as your own clothing) in the carrier.
    4. Consider spraying a cat appeasing pheromone such as Feliway in your cat’s carrier 15-20 minutes prior to placing your cat in the carrier.
    5. Ensure that the cat carrier is properly secured once your cat is insides (top and bottom are attached and the door is properly closed)!
  3. Prepare your vehicle

    1. Play calming music or make the car as quiet as possible.
    2. Place your cat in a carrier on the floor behind the passenger seat.
      1. Unrestrained pets can get become stressed from slipping on the seats, injured if thrown around the car, and lost in the event of an automobile accident.
  4. Carrying your cat’s carrier

    1. Carry the carrier from the bottom rather from the handle.  This will reduce swinging and allow your cat to feel more secure.
    2. Cover the carrier with a towel or blanket when in the lobby – AMH will provide a pheromone scented towel to use in the lobby if needed
    3. Do not place the carrier on the floor of the lobby.  Cats feel more secure when up high, so place the carrier on your lap or on a table.
  5. When returning home

    1. If you are returning your cat to a multi-cat household, be mindful that your cat will smell like the hospital and may not be well accepted by his or her housemates at home.  Give your cat some time alone upon returning and monitor the initial interactions for signs of stress or aggression.
  6. Call for advice!

    1. If your cat is hissing, swatting, or biting you when you attempt to put him or her in the carrier, stop and call for advice.  Your cat’s stress levels are likely too high to result in a positive exam room visit and it is often best to discuss the issue with a veterinary assistant and reschedule the appointment after making a better plan.
    2. In addition, if your cat displays signs of stress such as vocalizing, drooling, panting, or hissing during the car ride, let us know as soon as you arrive so that we can work on de-escalating the situation.

Your cat’s emotional welfare is important to us.  If you are struggling with any aspect with getting your cat to the vet, please call.  Your cat is unique, but anxiety about traveling is not.   Please do not hesitate to call and discuss your cats needs with us and we will come up with the most suitable plan for your cat.