If you’re reading this and you have a kitten, you’re in luck! Some training early on can make trips to the vet easier. Even older cats can benefit from desensitization training. Start with leaving your carrier in a quiet corner, door open and a soft towel or used t-shirt inside. Cover the outside with a towel or pillowcase to make it cave-like. Put treats or catnip inside to encourage your kitten or cat to see it as a refuge. A kitten will be more likely to jump on in and investigate. It may take your adult cat longer, but natural curiosity will eventually lure them in. Ideally, you can leave the carrier in this quiet spot year round. Once your kitten or cat is going in and out of the carrier, try quietly closing the door, picking up the carrier and driving around the block. Bring the carrier back in, return it and your kitty to the same quiet corner and open the door. Repeat as often as possible while your kitten is young, and he or she will learn that the carrier and car rides are no big deal, especially if a treat is given as soon as you get home.
A pheromone spray, such as Feliway, used 15 minutes prior to your cat entering the carrier can also help your cat feel calmer about being transported. A word about types of carriers, a carrier that has a top and/ or side entry will be easier to use than one that only has one entry. If you can open the top and lower your cat in, most cats will reach to get down, and voila, they’re in the carrier. If you are dealing with a one-entry carrier, try backing your cat in. This confuses most cats and they can’t figure out how to avoid going in. Another trick with the one-entry carrier is to tip it up so entry is pointing up and lower your cat in, hind end first.
Wrapping your cat in a towel prior to placing in the carrier may help. Speaking of towels, putting a small towel or absorbent pad in the carrier will be very helpful if your kitty has an “accident” on the way to the vet’s office. Much less cleanup! Lastly, if nothing works, call and see if your vet offers house calls. At my office, we do a limited number of house calls for difficult to transport cats, so they can get their all-important wellness care. Every cat deserves an exam every year, even if they are strictly indoors.