Fear Free veterinary tip: Teach fraidy cats to love their carriers


No animal should live their life in fearespecially when it comes to normal life events, such as going to the veterinarian.

Visiting a veterinary practice doesn't need to be traumatic and terrifying. Instead, with the right setup and handling, cats can experience a lower stress and fear free visit. The place to start is at home. After all, cats often arrive for their visit in a state of fear from the anxiety of being placed inside-or rather wrangled and stuffed inside, in many cases-their crate. 

Helping cats feel comfortable in their crates improves the entire visit, because the cat has a portable safe space to be inside-from the car ride to the exam. Many times veterinarians can even examine cats within their crate space if it has a removable top. Whether the cat is new to a crate or already has established fears, it can learn a new and positive association with the carrier. Here are some pointers to help pet owners condition their cats to the crate: 

> The optimal crate to train with is a top removal model with two exit points: one in the front, one on top. 

> Place comfortable bedding inside that the cat has already used, so it feels safe and promotes relaxation. 

> Keep the crate out all the time for the cat to use. It can be their safe zone. Take the door off or secure it with a tie when it's not clipped to keep it from closing or making a loud noise if bumped. 

> Get the cat inside by feeding meals inside the crate. For fearful cats, place food outside, but near the crate and bring closer to encourage them to peacefully eat near–and eventually inside-the crate.

> If comfortable, shut the door for short periods of time and reward the cat with treats, or give a long lasting stuffed food puzzle inside the carrier for them to focus on.

> Use a calming pheromone that soothes anxious cats. Spritz on the inside before the cat goes in. The effects last about five hours after spraying. 

> Place the crate in a higher space, like on furniture, if your cat likes being up high rather than on the ground. 

> When going to a visit, cover the carrier with a towel on the outside to keep cats from spotting scary things happening around them. 

> When you move the carrier, hold it with both hands and lift the weight evenly and carefully without jostling or bumping in the way you could carry a fragile present. 

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