Getting the Cat into the Carrier
This isn't necessarily as hard as it sounds. Here are a few techniques that we have found to be helpful.
1. Place the carrier on its backside with the opening facing the ceiling. May want to do this with the carrier standing securely against a wall; if the carrier should fall over while you're trying to put the cat in, this could create alot of noise and stress for your cat. Pick up your cat and gently drop them down into the carrier feet first. Many cats will grab the sides of the door as you lower them in, but usually you are able to get past the back feet using this technique. Once the cat is sitting in the bottom, close the carrier door, and slowly and gently bring the carrier back to its right side.
2. You can also use this same technique without standing the carrier up on end, it's just a little trickier. Better for those cats that are less determined about NOT getting into the carrier. Make sure the carrier is on a solid surface at waist height. Try doing a reverse "superman" with the cat when putting them in.
3. Another option for certain models of carriers: take the top off the carrier and simply place your cat into the bottom. Replace the carrier top and door. Secure the snaps or screws and nuts before picking up the cat in the carrier. An added advantage to these types of carriers is that your veterinarian can just remove the top and examine your kitty without actually having to "remove" the cat from the carrier.
4. What if you don't have a carrier? No problem. Grab a pillowcase, place it on a solid surface like a tabletop making sure that the sides of the pillowcase are bunched up so that the back end of the pillowcase makes a "floor." Place cat on this "floor" and pull the sides of the pillowcase up over them into a bag. Make sure to support your cat adequately as you pickup the pillowcase "sack." Keep in mind, if you have a wild one, they can claw their way out of the bag. Incidentally, the pillowcase can be used also to help get a nervous kitty into the carrier, especially if they become all arms and legs as they approach being put into the carrier.
Things that may work but often fail:
-- putting the cat into the carrier head first and trying to shove them in. May be sucessful the first few times, but generally just causes the cat to panick. What would your reaction be if someone tried to shove you into an unknown room?
-- coaxing them to go into the carrier by putting their favorite treat in the back of it. May work the first few times, but they will come to see it as "a trick." Getting it to work in the future will be much more difficult.
-- getting the carrier out BEFORE you have the cat. If the carrier is not a normal part of your cat's everyday scenery and you bring it out of the closet, you can nearly always guarentee that the cat will disappear into a good hiding place. Peeyow! Good luck finding them.
Additional helpful tips:
-- Make the carrier a normal part of your cat's landscape. Perch it near a favorite look-out window. Keep bedding in it and put additional fluffy bedding over the top of it so your cat can curl up in it or ontop of it for a nap. At the minimum, take the carrier out days in advance of the travel date. In this way, you keep your cat from seeing the carrier as some strange scary beast that means "I am going to a strange place that will scare me."
-- If your cat is a hider, move them into an area where there aren't any places for them to hide underneath something. Make sure the doors are closed to this area. Bathrooms are frequently great for this.
-- Spray Feliway, a synthetic cat pheromone that mimics a natural pheromone that cats release when they are happy, on a towel inside the carrier. This will help promote calmness and relaxation.
-- Soft bedding in the carrier. Our cats love the towels that have just come out of the dryer (think about those cats that are attracted to sitting in a laundry basket filled with just freshly laundered clothes).
-- Try not to feed your cat right before traveling. Limit meals to 3 hours before the trip.
-- Don't clutter the carrier with food, water bowls, and litterbox. Trust us, your cat is not likely to use the bathroom during travel. Think of it like this... Many people HATE using public restrooms. Ever known someone that would schedule their day in such a way so that they could use the bathroom at home. Cats are also VERY MUCH like this; they hate using the restroom in a strange place and will avoid doing so at all costs. Exception: those cats that become so upset and stressed that they "pee their pants." Generally, these cats are too scared to move from the spot that they are hunkered down in and they pee on themselves. For these cats, refer to the other tips that help reduce stress associated with traveling.
-- If your cat has had a particularly scary experience with one particular carrier, use a different one for the next trip. Rotate the carriers or simply avoid using the one that they associate with a traumatic experience.
-- Please make sure that your carrier is in decent shape before putting the cat in it. Could you imagine your stress if you got into something like an elevator and the bottom started falling out of it? Would you ever want to go into an elevator again?
-- If you are using a cardboard carrier, please keep in mind that these are meant for short-term use ONLY. They don't last long especially if they become wet. Even after three uses, they start to become unstable. Either buy another one (around $10) or make the plunge for a permanent carrier. Permanent carriers can last a really long time if you take care of them.
-- Try not to work yourself up about the ride in the car with your cat. Keep in mind that animals are very good at picking up your underlying fears and stresses. If YOU stress out, THEY will stress out. Try not to make a big production of the event.
-- While in the car, play some soft relaxing music like classical or instrumental music. Keep the volume audible but soft. You may also think about putting a sachet of lavander in the car for the trip. Studies have shown it to be relaxing for animals that have anxiety about traveling.
-- BAD IDEA: Two cats in one carrier: (1) Can be kind of cramped, (2) If one has a bad attitude, they might take it out on the other. Even if both cats usually love each other at home, stressful situations can make one or both of them cranky. Don't turn a routine traveling event into a visit to a vet office for injuries. Also, cats are less likely to be as tolerant of each other in a small space after the stress of a vet visit. So while they may be fine about riding together on the way to the vet, they may not feel the same way on the way home.