So Why Not the Carrier?!? – Part I of 3

Sep 14, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

Cats love to hide in bags, boxes, and anything they can get into… so, why not the carrier?

It’s a great question, and it takes understanding of the cat to answer the question – and to change it so that the cat also goes to their carrier.

Cats love places to hide – as soon as a cardboard box or paper bag comes into the house, most cats jump in.  They do so because they are curious creatures, and love places to explore – that is, on their own terms.  And they also like the security of something around them and a place to rest alone – tall cat beds, cubby holes, etc.

Cats also hide as normal behavior as a way to cope in response to a perceived threat or danger.

What is threatening to a cat?

Anything that isn’t familiar.  Allowing them to have the choice to hide at home when someone unfamiliar comes home, and making the carrier a safe haven when they go somewhere unfamiliar, such as the vet hospital, is ideal.

So… why not the carrier?

Imagine for a moment that you are a cat, sleeping in a sunspot, and your favorite person brings out this box that you only go into when you’ve had experiences that have been fearful in the past. You run to hide, and your person acts uncharacteristically, chasing you around the house, then grabs you, and shoves you into this box. You are then carried in the box that jostles back and forth, put in a car, and there is a scary ride to an unfamiliar place where people treat you in ways that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and frightening. How would you react to protect yourself?

Instead, bring the carrier out of the basement or garage, and place it in a room where your cat likes to be. Putting it in a sunbeam is an added plus. Place a fleece or other soft bedding or clothing that has the scent from their favorite person into the carrier. Always leave the door open. Every day, toss a favorite treat or kibble into the carrier. Walk away and do not try to encourage your cat to go into the carrier; cats like choice, and will eventually start going in if they don’t feel pushed or forced. Once your cat starts going into the carrier, reward calmly, praising is a soft voice and giving it more treats.

There are several excellent videos to help you make the carrier a positive place. They can be found on the CATalyst Council website:

  1. First, take a look at the cat’s trip to the veterinary visit for their point of view.
  2. Then move on to other videos on how to make it easy to get your cat into the carrier:
    • And last, but not least, on YouTube, my 16 year old buddy, Watson, stars at my veterinary hospital, showing how to get into the carrier. He spent the first 9 years of his life fighting the carrier and hating the vet hospital; So it can be done, no matter how much your cat hates the carrier.

You can read part 2 here.

Dr Ilona Rodan

Dr. Ilona Rodan, ABVP Certified in Feline Practice
Medical Director and Owner, Cat Care Clinic, Madison, WI
Feline Behavior Consultant

Dr. Ilona Rodan has been a leader in the field of feline medicine for more than 25 years. She started the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin in 1987 to provide the best feline health care individualized to each patient in a compassionate environment that is more comfortable for cats and cat lovers, and where cats are better understood and handled in a respectful manner. With her extensive knowledge of feline behavior, she also understands the cats’ needs at home, and strives to enhance and prolong the relationship between cats and the people who love them. Our clients frequently tell us that our knowledge and caring has increased their cat’s length of life, often by several years.

When Dr. Rodan is not practicing and teaching at the clinic, she lectures internationally
and writes about feline-friendly hospitals, cat behavior and prevention of behavior problems, and recognizing and treating pain in cats. She has been active in the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) since 1982, and has served in every office, including President. She is most proud of her accomplishments in helping to establish guidelines for feline medicine, which include retrovirus testing, vaccinations, senior care, feline life stages, behavior, pain management, and feline handling guidelines (the latter published in 2011). Dr. Rodan was also an ambassador in the development of a specialist category in feline medicine.

In 1995, she became one of the first board-certified feline practitioners. Her hospital is an AAHA-Accredited Feline Specialty Hospital. She and her team are involved in community service, including free spays and neuters for Friends of Ferals. Dr. Rodan also lectures to the public and staff members of the local shelter, Dane County Humane Society.

Dr. Rodan received the national Friskie’s award for outstanding accomplishments in feline medicine in 1998. In 2005, she was chosen from 70,000 veterinarians to receive the most prestigious award given to a veterinarian, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Award, This award was given to Dr. Rodan for her work locally and nationally to enhance the welfare of cats through medical and behavioral advancements, and her contributions to community and society. Dr. Rodan’s passion and desire to help both cats and their people is unwavering.

Dr. Rodan continues to be well trained by the two feline family members she lives with, their predecessors, and the cats she has treated for more than 30 years. They have taught her how to respectfully handle and work with cats, to understand that the needs of cat’s in their home is an important part of their healthcare, and to ensure that they have the best quality and length of life.

Cat Care Clinic
322 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

Phone: (608) 833-9750
Fax: (608) 829-0345

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