We recently had two kitties who required surgery; Ally had a dental procedure with six extractions and Coco had a mass removed from her eyelid. Thankfully, they are both recovering fine. The multiple trips to the veterinarian were probably the most stressful factor for all of us, humans and kitties alike. There are ways to reduce your cat's anxiety, motion sickness, and reluctance to even allow you to place her in a carrier. While not every trick will help every kitty, hopefully you can find a combination of measures that help calm your kitty and make traveling a bit more pleasant.
1. Use the right carrier for your cat. A top and front loading crate will make it easier if your cat uses her legs to brace herself when you attempt to put her into the carrier. Rigid plastic is easy to clean if your kitty is a nervous pee-er or a senior kitty who cannot always hold her urine. A soft carrier, such as a Sherpa brand, often has a full zip top. This means you can totally unzip it, nudge your slightly suspicious kitty onto the soft "bed," and then rapidly zip the top with your hand on her back to hold her there. Because these type of carriers cannot be cleaned very well, I recommend putting piddle pads inside under a towel in case of accidents. Bring a plastic bag and extra blankets in case there is a #2 accident and you need to pull over (been there).
2. Spray the carrier and blankets with Feliway Comfort Zone an hour before loading kitty. Spray your car a bit too.
3. Try Rescue Remedy flower essences on your kitty's temples before the trip. The formula made for animals doesn't have alcohol in it so they won't even smell it.
4. If you have a kitty who was/is somewhat feral or works herself up by howling for the entire trip (been there too!), resort to Gabapentin. Your veterinarian can prescribe this and it's inexpensive. You can even get it compounded if you have better luck with liquid meds. My tabby twins will usually eat something tasty such as baby food with a capsule mixed in and not notice it. Note that this drug often needs at least two hours to reach a noticeable effect. CBD may also help if you wish to experiment with the variety of products made specifically for pets.
5. Since I moved to a colder climate and my kitties are mostly geriatric, we use a cuddle disc under the blankets inside the crate. Alternatively, you could warm blankets in the drier before placing them in the crate (NEVER use drier sheets with fragrances and chemicals around cats).
6. Always cover the carrier when walking to and from the car, to reduce the feeling of being exposed and unprotected. If you go to a veterinarian that also sees dogs, keep the crate covered until you are bot in the exam room. Obviously if it is very warm out, use common sense and make sure your cat doesn't get overheated.
I've read that the safest place to put your crated kitty while driving is on the floor of the back seat. My car doesn't allow for this so I put the crates in the back seat area where the kitties can both see and hear me talking to them. Some newer carriers can be secured with the seatbelt, such as SleepyPod brands. If I had to purchase a carrier for air travel or wanted to splurge on a luxury carrier, these would be my choice. Safe travels!
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