Category Archives: cat carrier

How to Deal with Cat Carrier Drama and Trauma

By Julia Williams

Many cat owners cite their kitty’s fear and loathing of the cat carrier as the main reason they don’t visit their vet more often. I can totally relate to that. I know annual checkups are important for pets, but I dread the day. Now, I have heard of cats going into their carrier without a struggle, and some that regard it as just another cozy napping spot. I’ve even heard of cats who enjoy car rides and don’t wail like they’re being mercilessly tortured. However, I’ve been a Cat Lady for a long time, and I’ve never had anything close to a carrier/car-ride-loving feline. Hence I liken them to unicorns, dragons and other mythical creatures born from imaginative minds.

That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t take some steps to lessen the drama that ensues when the “evil PTU” (Pet Transport Unit) comes out. In addition to taking kitty to the vet, cat carriers are vital for moving, traveling and evacuating in an emergency, so it behooves us to make using them as stress free as possible. Your cat may not ever come to love the carrier, but there are things you can do to help them accept it. The goal is to ensure they don’t have a full-blown panic attack at the sight of the carrier, or go into meltdown mode in the car.

The first thing you should do is consider the context of the carrier. If it only comes out right before your cat goes to a place where they have a not-so-fun experience (to put it mildly), it’s easy to see why your cat would fear the PTU and run for their favorite hiding spot at the mere sight of it.

The solution is to make the carrier part of your cat’s surroundings, by leaving it out somewhere in your home. It doesn’t have to be conspicuous, like in the middle of the living room – just where your cat will see it often and become used to its presence. Additionally, the cat carrier will then smell like your home instead of a musty basement or dusty garage. The carrier may even eventually smell like your cat if they become comfortable enough to rub against it. You might also want to use a synthetic feline pheromone spray in or near the carrier. You won’t smell anything but your cat will, and the pheromones are said to have a calming effect.

Since the aim is to get your cat to view the carrier as nonthreatening, you should begin to create positive associations with it. First, place an old towel or t-shirt where your cat normally sleeps. Let them sleep on it for a few days so it smells like them, then place it in the carrier. Next, begin to play with your cat near the carrier. Use “fishing pole” type cat toys to encourage your cat to jump over the carrier or on top of it. You can also throw catnip toys near the opening and eventually, inside the carrier.

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How to Travel With Cats

Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t like riding in cars. Whereas many dogs adapt easily to traveling and can go on road trip vacations with you, cats are usually much better off left at home. In fact, most cat owners usually only take their kitty for a car ride when it’s absolutely necessary, such as for visits to the vet. There are, however, times when traveling with cats is unavoidable. I experienced such a time when I moved to another state a few years ago. I put my belongings on a truck, loaded my three cats in carriers and into the back seat of my car, and away we went. From this road trip, I learned firsthand what to do, and what not to do, when faced with the need to travel with cats. 
Careful planning is essential if you are to have any hope of a good experience when traveling with cats. As early as possible before your trip, make a list of supplies you’ll need to obtain, purchase them, and put them in a safe place. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute for supplies, nor do you want to discover mid-trip that you forgot something indispensable. A sturdy cat carrier is a must, because cats do not travel well in cars and can get under your feet, claw your legs or otherwise become a dangerous distraction. I prefer the heavy-duty plastic cat carriers that have open-weave metal doors for air circulation. When traveling with cats for long distances, you need a cat carrier that allows some fresh air into it. I like to put a soft towel on the bottom for cushioning. 
You will also need to bring food and water, bowls, kitty litter, scooper, plastic bags for waste, and a litter pan. They sell small litter pans made for kittens, which are perfect for travel. I poured some kitty litter into a gallon milk jug, which was more convenient than lugging along a big, heavy container of litter. You might also want to pack one or two of their favorite cat toys. This will provide something familiar with their scent, and give them something to play with in the motel. Your cat may or may not feel like playing, but at least they will have the option. 
I learned the hard way that it’s probably not a good idea to give your cat very much food before you set out on your travels. I was cruising merrily down the highway, singing along with the three-cat harmony coming from the back seat, when suddenly I smelled something awful. My worst fear had become reality; Rocky had diarrhea in his carrier. Suffice it to say, I fed him very, very little for the remainder of this two day trip. Some cat’s digestive systems are highly sensitive, and stress combined with the movement of the car can wreak havoc on their stomachs. Hence, it’s wise to just feed them very small amounts of food until you arrive at your destination.
The one thing I debated about buying and bringing along is a leash and body harness. Cats are notoriously anti-leash creatures, but I now realize this is an essential supply when traveling with cats. Further, you should practice putting it on your cat and taking it off before your trip, so you will be familiar with how to use it – because there’s a good chance you will need it. I had to stop at a rest area after Rocky had his “accident.” This rest area didn’t have a lock on the door, so I put the harness and leash on Rocky, and tied the leash to the sink while I cleaned out his carrier, and then him. If he had been running loose in the room and someone opened the door, I likely would have never seen him again. 
If you find yourself faced with the need to travel with cats, I hope these tips will help you have a smooth and safe trip.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.