Transporting a Cat with Minimal Stress

By Dr. Naomi Keiper of Bothell Pet Hospital

If you’re a cat owner, you know how stressful it can be to get your feline to the veterinarian – for both of you! Trying to get a cat into a carrier can result in scratches, bites and even blood being drawn. It’s enough to make the bravest of cat owners want to skip veterinary visits altogether!

cat-football-player-comicEven though cats outnumber dogs as family pets, we veterinarians we see a greater number of dogs in the clinic for health care than cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2011, 44.9 percent of cat owners didn’t take their cat to a vet during the year, while just 18.7 percent of dog owners didn’t go to a vet with their canine.

We know that cat owners feel just as strongly as dog owners about maintaining their pet’s health, but stress and transportation issues can greatly impact an owner’s ability to visit the veterinarian with their feline. Unfortunately this often results in many cats that may not be getting the veterinary care they need.

How to Transport Your Cat

The following tips will help you reduce the anxiety associated with getting your cat to the clinic, so that he or she can have the visits necessary for maintaining tip-top health—allowing your cat to live a longer, more comfortable life.

  • If possible, start with getting your cat used to the carrier and the car as a kitten. Keep up with this throughout the cat’s life.
  • Getting the right carrier is key; many carriers are just too small. In purchasing a carrier get one that is large enough for your cat to turn around in comfortably. The ideal carrier will have an easy release top portion which can be removed to allow your cat remain in the bottom half of the carrier. Physical exams can be performed with your cat in the bottom half of the carrier allowing him or her to feel more secure. An easy release top or top loading option will also help avoid the difficult and stressful experience of “extracting” a cat from its carrier.
  • Each cat in a family should have its own carrier. This may help avoid cats “feeding off” each other’s stress.
  • Leave your cat carrier out and available at all times. Make the carrier a fun place: feed treats in the carrier, try cat nip, dismantle it and leave the bottom half available with a familiar blanket inside it to provide a bed, some cats will even respond to crate training!
  • Try Feliway® spray in the carrier and in your car. This is a synthetic pheromone that helps reduce feline stress.
  • Spread a towel over the carrier before transport to shield your cat from the world outside. You can even cut a slit in the middle portion of the towel so that your carrier’s handle will fit through and the towel can drape completely over the carrier with ease.
  • After your cat has become more comfortable with the carrier, getting them used to trips in the car can be the next step. Make short car rides around the block with your cat in their carrier so that car rides do not always result in a veterinary visit. Make sure to secure your cat’s carrier with a seatbelt to reduce the motion associated with riding in the car.
  • For cats with more severe anxiety we can prescribe medications that can be given at home before even attempting to put your cat in the carrier for his or her visit that may alleviate anxiety all together. Just ask!

Last but not least… as much as we would love you see you and your feline for veterinary care right here at Bothell Pet Hospital, we realize there are some cats that may do best with a veterinary home visit. This service can provide your cat with great health care without the stress of being removed from their home. Give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide recommendations.

We look forward to seeing you and your cat(s) at our clinic sometime soon!


About Bothell Pet Hospital

Since 1954, Bothell Pet Hospital has been operating as an independent small animal hospital, providing primary veterinary care to cats and dogs in Bothell, Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Woodinville, Mill Creek, Kirkland, Brier, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
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