Q: Dear Nora,
Traveling with my cat is a nightmare. Even just quick trips to the vet cause her an amazing amount of stress. What can I do to make being in the carrier a less stressful experience for her?
A: I can understand your cat’s stress. We are naturally anxious creatures, so it’s scary for us to be shoved into small crates and carted off to unknown destinations with no chance of escape or defense. That being said, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the stress of putting her in a carrier.
First, make sure the carrier you are using is appropriately sized for your cat. Bigger cats require bigger carriers, and if your cat is large, she may feel anxious being shoved into a box that is too small for her to move around in.
Next, make the carrier comfortable and familiar. Start by lining the bottom of the carrier with something that smells like you and home– a used pillowcase form your bed, a dirty towel, your favorite hoodie, whatever. The more it smells like you, the more comforting it will be to her. Beware, though, that she may pee or puke on whatever you put in the carrier, so make it something that is easily washable. Invest in a spray bottle of Feliway. Feliway mimics the pheromones cats exude when they are happy, and will help send comforting and vibes to her. Spritz the carrier a few minutes before Go Time. Bach Pet Rescue Remedy also helps by using a combination of safe and effective herbs to sooth cats. Just add a few drops to her water bowl the night before travel. Make sure to only use the non-alcohol pet version, as the alcohol in the human version can be dangerous for kitties.
Lastly, keep the carrier in plain sight even when you won’t be using it. My mom keeps my carrier tucked under a table. Sometimes I even nap and play in it, so it always smells like me. Being able to see it, smells it, and explore it all the time makes it less scary when it’s time to get inside.