cat stress reliefCats don’t handle stress well. Few pets do, but cats particularly like feeling as if they are “in control” of their surroundings.

A visit to the veterinarian you choose is especially stressful for cats, but there are some ways you can make kitty feel a little more secure and comfortable when s/he has to come to us.

Carrier Craft

A pet carrier should be the number one tool in your cat-kit, and it’s the best way to take kitty to the vet or anywhere else. Choosing the right cat carrier is essential for helping to provide stress relief and safety for your pet:

  • Size: The size carrier you choose depends on how big your cat is, and whether s/he will travel alone or with another cat. Your kitty needs to be able to stand up, turn around and stretch in the carrier. If it’s too big, however, she’ll feel less secure, so ideally you want a carrier that’s not more than twice the size of the cat. Use a larger carrier if you’re planning to accommodate two cats, but you have to be sure they get along well enough or the fur will fly!
  • Feeding Facilities: If your carrier is going to do double duty as a long-distance travel crate, you’ll want something that has detachable food and water dishes. These need to attach to the side of the carrier without making it crowded, and should be easy to reach from the outside so you don’t have to open the crate wide in potentially risky situations to refill them. Having food handy will also help to provide comfort, cat safety and stress relief.
  • Materials: Cat carriers come in hard, soft or cardboard structures. The cardboard ones are great for using once or twice for short trip. However, they don’t last long, especially if they get wet. Carriers with hard outer shells made of strong plastic are perfect for bigger cats, and they just need a spray or rinse to keep them clean. These crates have ventilation on the sides and are good for airline travel, which typically requires cats to be in crates conforming to the airline’s specifications. Soft carriers are like large gym bags but have a firm base, and the access panel is usually on top of the crate and opens with a zipper. The sides have ventilating mesh to enable your cat to breathe comfortably, and a long strap makes it possible to carry kitty hanging from your shoulder.

Whatever cat carrier you select, make sure you check the weight capacity to verify if it will hold your pet. Buy the best quality carrier you can afford to help ensure a longer-lasting purchase for your cat. Start training your cat as young as possible to enjoy the carrier by making it a positive place to go. Keep it open in the house and play games to enable kitty to create good associations with the carrier. You may also want to add a blanket and some toys that make it smell like home.

Leashing with Love

Yes, cats can walk on a leash! Maybe not quite the same way that dogs do, but certainly a cat that is trained and experienced at going out with you will feel more comfortable and secure if s/he is leashed during a visit to the vet for an annual checkup. Because cats are so lithe and may be able to escape more easily, a secure body harness is a better option than a simple cat collar if you want to try this method of containing your cat. Teach kitty at a young age to love the leash and to associate it with good things if you want it to work for visiting your vet.

Peaceful Pet Products

There are a number of pet products that are specially created for cat stress relief in difficult situations:

  • Thundershirt – While this was originally developed for dogs that were afraid of thunderstorms, it’s now available in a cat version The shirt works by applying a gentle pressure to your pet’s body, which resembles a hugging sensation and relieves anxiety. Once your cat is accustomed to the shirt, you can put it on ahead of a visit to the vet and s/he’ll feel far more secure about leaving home.
  • Feliway – This is a synthetic copy of the facial pheromone cats use to rub against objects and identify their territorial boundaries. It gives them a sense of safety and security and is used to correct negative behaviors such as urinary marking and fighting. It’s ideal for helping your cat feel at home in a carrier.

Making your cat’s visits to your NC veterinarian safe and stress-free will help kitty reach his or her full potential as a well-adjusted companion, making your life less stressful as well.