Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hitchin A Ride Safely, The Feline Edition

I have a few pet peeves..and truly, I mean pet peeves, about pets..

The staff at the clinic will confirm this as true. Hopefully they do it with a sincere smile of caring and not a roll of the eyes, sigh, and look of disgust and annoyance. I can't help it, I go a bit bananas over pet care..Every tiny little minute aspect of pet care...

One of my biggest pet peeves is transporting your pet to the vet..Well, I should broaden that, to transporting your pets, period.

This is a photo of my nephew Cody on his way to visit us. My sister takes great care in ensuring that her two children are safely secured in their correct sized and installed car seats. It is after all, the law. And, it is after all for their safety.

Cody, safely saddled up for the long trip to Aunt Krista's house.
But for pets, well, anything seems to go for pets. Back seat, front seat, back of the truck,,(ugh,,don't people understand that if it isn't safe to carry your kid in the back of the truck then it isn't safe for your pet?) it doesn't matter. There almost no laws for transporting pets. And why is that? Well, because we just don't seem to care as much about them? I hope not..

Animal Control Officer reports these idiots for towing their beagle in a carrier in 100 degree weather
mounted behind the exhaust pipe.

Because I cannot write the laws for safely transporting your pets, I try ever diligently (sometimes with intense paranoia and feverish nagging) to enforce some basic safe transport guidelines for the pets that enter our clinic.

Most clinics that you bring your pet into ask that you "Keep all pets on a leash or carrier."

(Just a little "vet" humor.)

Why do we request a leash or a carrier? Well, because we know that your pet is safest if they are tied to you, or contained safely in a pet carrier beside you.

In this blog I wanted to focus on transporting cats. Most people adhere to the leash laws for their dogs and arrive with their puppy on a leash, or in a small (usually decked out) fashionable purse-like bag. But few cats travel much outside of the vets office and therefore too many seem to be haphazardly carried, swathed, or managed.  I am not sure if it is for one reason or the other, but I see too many people show up at my office with their cat not safely or securely transported.

Why is this?

Issue Number 1;

People have trouble getting their cat in a carrier.
My answer; There are lots of easy things that you can do to help make this less frightening for your cat. First, never underestimate your kitties sense of smell and observation. A new piece of furniture is immediately noticed by them. Think about it, if you spent ALL of your life inside the four walls of your home and if you had a bionic nose you would notice a cat carrier as a quickly as if someone painted everything in your house in asphalt that smells like dog poop on your shoe..To trick your kitty into not noticing the carrier that will safely transport them to the vet take it out of the garage and leave it in the living room for at least a week. Integrate the carrier into the house and it won't appear as a foreign death trap.
To safely get your cat in the carrier you can gently and quietly put your cat in a pillow case and then lower her into the carrier. I prefer to tip the carrier so the the door is opened and facing up toward the sky. Lower your cat gently into the carrier, either safely in the pillow case, or holding the scruff with one hand and the buttocks with the other. If they cannot see the vessel they are being lowered into they are not as afraid and do not fight so dangerously.

Issue Number 2;

My cat stresses out in the car. Yes, your cat will likely stress out in the car. Your only choices here are to either never take her in the car (call a mobile vet for cat care), you de-sensitize your cat to traveling like you did your puppy by starting to take them everywhere, (yes, this is possible), or you just grin and bear it once or twice a year. To lessen the cries for help you can try the following; use a small fabric carrier, or put a blanket over the hard sided carrier. Your cat will feel safest in a small, dark space.

Issue Number 3;

My cat gets sick in the car. Yes, the stressful trip can cause your cat to toss her cookies, or poop in her cage. Be prepared for this. Don't stop the car, don't freak out, don't get into an accident, and don't open the carrier while you are either moving, driving, or unable to handle the mess that awaits. If you are on your way to the vet don't fret. We are used to cleaning up cat vomit and poop. In fact, we excel at it. Just walk in the clinic and ask for help in cleaning up your kitty once you are safely in the examination room.

Issue Number 4;

"I can't find the pet carrier." Or, "I don't have a pet carrier." Call your vet, call a friend, call a rescue, or go buy one. You really should always have one on hand. What would you do if you had a house fire? Or an emergency? Keep it accessible and a part of your pets emergency kit. (For advice on your pets emergency kit visit here).

Issue Number 5;

"My cat is so upset and stressed that she is a holy dangerous terror in the vet's office." This happens to even the sweetest, most loving house cats. They are the epitome of love and affection at home and the evil wrath of hissing, spitting, biting ferocity in the clinic. My advice, call a mobile vet, see if they are handle-able at home. Usually they are vicious and evil with restraint regardless of the location.

Here are some of my favorite cat carriers;

Easy to open front door. Safe to travel in, hard sided, lots of light and easy to get your kitty into and out of.

This kitty is leash trained. He loves to go on walks and is much less apprehensive and fearful at our office simply because he has been exposed to the great outdoors often.

And best yet, he arrived in a very safe, easily accessible carrier, with his harness and leash on!

The ultimate in cat transport. A rolling cat carrier! Easy on the back, allows a picturesque view of the roads traveled, and the ultimate in comfort and portability.

For those larger cats, a top opening carrier allows for easy, safe entry and exit. Also the easiest carrier for cats who are timid and shy. We can open the top put a towel on them and remove them within the peaceful safety of a soft blanket.

I received this question recently on this topic...Do you have any advice to offer a pet parent concerned about traveling with their cat? If so, please join us at Pawbly.com

Hello Lydia,

Great question! Many of us who travel with our pets know the stress that carrying a screaming, fearful cat causes on all of us. As Dr. Chambreau said, fear/anxiety crying is different that vocal nausea. So, as long as your cat is not vocalizing and then vomiting (there are some very good medicines for this), then here is what I do:

Keep you cat in a small sturdy plastic cat carrier..I like the ones with the wire door at the top (easier to get your cat in and out of it), and 
place lots and lots of shredded newspaper in the bottom, so your cat can hide in it, and it makes for easy clean up should they vomit, urinate, or defecate. (Keep extra newspaper with you for bedding changes).
Place a blanket or towel over the entire cage once you put the cat inside. Keep them covered for the entire trip.
Resist the urge to talk to them,,for us we think we are re-assuring them, but for your cat she thinks you are taunting her with your replies that continue to not alleviate their dilemma. You might be saying, "It's alright Fluffy, we will be there soon." But they hear, "I'm keeping you in that cage no matter how much you cry and complain about it."
Cats feel more secure and calm in small dark, quiet places to hide when they are afraid, so make the carrier a place like this.

Also, remember to never let the cat out of the carrier, or even open the carrier until you are at your final destination, (and even this should only be done if your cat is used to the new place already). If you have to open the carrier en route, stay in the car, close the doors and windows and that way if your cat gets out of the cage she can't escape from the car. Cats will run and flee if they are afraid.

I hope this helps.

Safe travels,

If you have a pet question you can ask the community at Pawbly for free.Or, you can contribute your own ideas, thoughts, and suggestions to help others. Pawbly is the social media platform built to help people take better care of their pets.

Or find me in person at Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

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