VCA Brookline Animal Hospital

Low-Stress Ways to Get Your Very Feisty (Claws-Out) Cat to the Vet

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A recent veterinary industry megastudy concluded that while cats significantly outnumber dogs in the United States, cats are much less likely to see their veterinarians on a regular basis. In fact, plenty of cats never see a vet unless they’re on death’s doorstep.

The No. 1 reason for this canine-feline discrepancy? It comes down to a simple thing: transportation.

Although veterinary conventional wisdom tends to lay the blame on clients’ unwillingness to spend on their cats (relative to dogs), the truth is that getting a cat inside a box is considered a colossal stumbling block for many pet owners.

In my experience, this is absolutely a factor –– a big one. At least once a day, our office fields a call from a cat owner who has to cancel at the last minute because kitty isn’t amenable to carrier confinement.

You may think that this happens only with cats who live outdoors or whose feral origins don’t lend to easy capture, but you’d be wrong. Plenty of otherwise mild-mannered housecats will pull out all the stops (teeth and claws included) to stay out of the dreaded box.

So what’s a responsible owner to do? After all, waiting until she’s sick enough to resist less violently is not a reasonable option — even though a startlingly large percentage of cat owners resort to this very tactic.

In the interest of avoiding this worst-case scenario, here are my top tips for cornering, capturing and confining cats for safe transport to the vet.

Get the right size carrier. A large carrier is sometimes the only way to go because it can be impossible to squeeze a big cat through a narrow door. My personal favorite: a top-loading carrier. I even have a client who uses a rolling plastic file cabinet with a top that latches. He got it at OfficeMax for $12.99. Score!

Keep the carrier out. One mistake owners make is to leave a pet carrier in the garage or a closet, ensuring that kitty bolts for the wiliest hiding place when the box comes out –– at least until dinnertime.

Cozy up the space. Smart cat owners know that desensitization works. Try feeding your cat inside the carrier, which is an especially good trick for those who need to feed their cats separately for weight control. You should also line it with newspaper to soak up urine, and always keep a clean towel inside.

Opt for a shadier carrier. Most stressed-out cats seem to find a dark cubbyhole more comfortable than a wide-open space. You can achieve this by either buying a carrier designed for darkness or cover the box with a towel.

Try a towel wrap. Burrito your kitty before placing her in the carrier. This nifty trick works great when you need to medicate your cat, too. Plenty of YouTube videos can show you how to burrito a cat with perfect aplomb.

Spritz pheromones. Certain cats respond well to relaxing pheromone sprays that you can spritz inside the carrier or diffuse in your home on the big vet visit day.

Consider catnip. Some cats love it. If nothing else, your kitty may be disoriented enough to make it easier to capture and confine her. Others felines may be chilled out by a little catnip in the carrier.

Reach for drugs — as a last resort. Sometimes it’s better than the alternative. No cat should suffer veterinary neglect over a simple issue like cat carrier transport.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:


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Emergency Care

In case of emergency during normal business hours, please call us immediately at 617-277-2030. If you have an emergency outside of our normal business hours, please call:

  • Angell Animal Medical Center at 617-522-7282
  • VCA South Shore Animal Hospital in Weymouth at 781-337-6622