Who has not spent 30 minutes trying to find his cat that was well hidden under a piece of furniture since he saw his carrying bag, spent several minutes to catch it, struggled to get him into his transport cage without being scratched ... before it escapes again, to start all over again or finally give up, and postpone the appointment to the vet to another day, or postpone the departure on vacation of a few hours?
Your cat is an animal that likes its small habits, its comfort, and its well marked territory. Therefore, moving, vacation, or visit the veterinarian can be stressful, which sometimes make the trip unpleasant for the cat or its owner (meowing intense, digestive disorders, stress urination, etc.).
Follow our tips to make the test of the bag or the cage a pleasure.
You should know that the cat can associate the travel bag with a "traumatic" event, and therefore, the release of the bag immediately triggers a burst of stress or fear for your cat. It is therefore important from the start to associate the crate with something positive, to make it a non-event in your cat's life.
Thus, we do not recommend to put the cat for the first time in his crate (stress of confinement), take the car (noises and movements that are scary), make a visit to your veterinarian for a first vaccine (noises, news smells, scary dogs, handling and stinging), and back home.
At best, your cat is pretty cool, he will have had a good fright, and will put aside this unpleasant episode ... at worst, your cat will never recover from this event and will be panicked with each new release of the "box to fright ".
Let the cat get used to the transport crate by making it welcoming
It is therefore important to present the box or carrying bag to the cat, in its everyday environment, and make it a nice refuge a few days before having to use it for the first time.
Leave the box or bag open in a corner of the house. Make the space inviting, by installing a small fluffy blanket, a toy, and some treats to encourage exploration by your cat. There are even soothing pheromones that you can spray at the four corners of the cage to fool your cat's brain into thinking it's a place he already knows.
By making this object unusual, inviting, your cat will be able to discover it at its own pace, deposit pheromones of appeasement, and get used to its restricted space. It could even make a small shelter away from the eyes, and find a reassuring environment when your cat finds himself transported in an unknown environment, as if he was carrying a part of his house with him.
At the first drive, do not go too far. Let your cat get used to the noise of the car, stop and then move. This universe is completely different from its place of life, so it is important not to rush it. A short trip will limit the duration of stress, and thus promote habituation.
For the first visit to the veterinarian, just make a round trip in the waiting room, so that your cat smells smells, sees a few animals without direct contact, hidden in the shelter behind the discrete openings of his carrying bag. A first approach without too much stimuli, or just a weighing will allow a habituation very smoothly.
We recommend putting a towel in the bottom of the carrying bag, to make the bottom more comfortable and non-slip. Add over an absorbent pad, which will make it easier for you to clean up in case of a small stress-related accident, which will prevent your cat from having the uncomfortable feeling of being covered with stool or urine.
In case of bad experience, it is important to clean the entire transport bag and cover, to eliminate all the odors and pheromones of stress, otherwise it will panic each trip.
By following our advice, your cat will be used to getting out of his comfort zone, and will be delighted to find a piece of his territory by going to take refuge in his transport case, even when he is not at home.
It is obvious that these exercises are much more effective when the habituation can be done while your cat is still kitten. At this age the brain is much more malleable. A good experience right from the start is much easier to set up, than having to desensitize a cat who has had a bad experience.
And if despite our advice, your cat still hates outings and his travel bag, then limit them, and ask your veterinarian for advice.
By Elise DONZEL-DECHILLY, Veterinary Doctor
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