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The One About Cat Carriers

Updated: Apr 6

Here at Windsor Animal Hospital, we have a cat carrier policy that our patrons are expected to follow; all cats must be crated before entering the building, the only exception being cats who are leash trained and on a secure lead with a properly fitting harness. I'll be honest, crates are our preference. While harnesses and a lead can be sufficient in many cases, if the harness is ill-fitting or if you don't have an uncompromising grip on the lead, you may find that you are unable to properly maintain control of your feline. This can have disastrous results, whether it be from an encounter with a canine in the lobby or by way of the cat running off into the wooded area behind the hospital or, worse yet, the street in front of the hospital. We have seen many cats get lost forever by running from an owner's arms outside of our hospital, or even running off after escaping from an unsecured crate.

Additionally, the emotional wellbeing of the cat should be a consideration. For most cats, simply leaving the house is a terrifying experience. This can sometimes be curbed by getting your cat accustomed to traveling for short drives around the neighborhood in a crate from an early age, but this doesn't always work. Crate training your cat allows them to have a safe space that they associate with their own security, and that safe space can go with them and provide them shelter from the scary outdoors whenever they have to be transported.

It’s also important to choose the right crate for your cat. The crate should be large enough for your cat to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not so large that your cat will slide around during travel. You should also make sure that the crate is well-ventilated and has a secure locking mechanism. Even when adequate locking mechanisms are present on the door and body of the crate holding it together, the use of temporary zip ties can provide added security and may be a good option.

I would generally recommend avoiding standard all-wire crates as these do not provide a sense of cover for the cat. When cats are nervous, they seek cover. Having a crate that is made of solid plastic with ventilation can provide the calming cover a nervous cat going to the veterinarian may need. But in the event that no other carrier is available to you, a standard wire dog crate is better than nothing. If you use a wire crate, be sure to secure the door with zip-ties.

To crate train a cat, it's easiest to start when young. Simply place the crate you'll be using in a quiet area of a common space in your home, door open. Beside a sofa may be a good spot, for example. Make it an inviting space, with a soft blanket and maybe even a kitten toy. Feeding the kitten near the crate can help as well. The goal is exposure. Don't close the kitten in the crate. Just allow the opportunity for the cat to enter and exit at will. With any luck, it will mostly ignore the crate and take the occasional nap inside. After this exposure therapy, your cat is far less likely to freak out about being placed in the crate to be taken to the vet.

But what if you missed out on the opportunity to crate train your kitten and you now have an adult cat who is terrified anytime they see a crate? I have a potential solution for you! There's one thing almost all cats love and that's freshly laundered towels in a laundry basket. You're going to use this to your advantage!

The supplies you'll need are two identical low-sided laundry baskets and 12 heavy-duty zip ties of an adequate size to achieve what I'm about to describe. All you'll do is dry a few towels or shirts, then place them in one of the laundry baskets. This is usually enough to entice a cat to enter the basket and curl up on the warm clothing. If this works, you'll slowly take the second laundry basket, rotate it so that it is upside down, and place it over the laundry basket that contains your cat and warm laundry. Use 6 zip-ties (one securing the two handles together one the right side, one securing the two handles together on the left side, and two on the front and back to hold those edges together. The remaining 6 zip-ties will be taken with you to your vet visit and be replacements for the ones that will be cut so the cat can be removed for its exam.

If your cat isn't lured in by warm laundry, you can always drop a towel into the laundry basket and use some catnip or catnip spray. In this case, I prefer the spray. I can spray the towel and then once the cat is inside the two baskets, I can squeeze the towel out and replace it with one that doesn't have catnip spray on it. This way the cat isn't receiving mixed signals (catnip making him feel euphoric, while being transported is making him feel anxious).

We have our carrier policy out of concern for the safety of our patients. It is not optional. All cats must all be confined, and not simply held in the owner's arms. Please help us protect your pet and the other animals and patrons in the lobby by bringing your cat in a carrier. Your pet's wellbeing means the world to us!

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