There are a number of considerations when transporting your cat to hospital and the information below will help you prepare.
The Cat Basket
There are numerous different cat baskets available on the market now, some of which require a degree in engineering to be able to take apart and reconstruct! Ideal things to look for when choosing a cat basket are:
- Options for access – ideally from the top, but a second access from the side or front is perfect. This can make getting cats in and out of baskets easier. The access should also be reasonably wide – cats will be less willing to walk into a basket if the opening is narrow
- Rigid construction of a material that can be cleaned, should the basket become soiled
- Large enough construction to accommodate a fully-grown cat – many people buy their cat basket when their cat is a kitten, resulting in an uncomfortable mode of transport when the cat’s middle-aged spread kicks in
- Baskets that can be taken apart enable cats to be examined where they are, without being ‘dragged’ out of the box
Bedding within the basket should be provided to stop an uncomfortable journey in contact with a hard plastic or wire floor. For cats that are sick or toilet when travelling, a kennel liner/incontinence pad can be placed on top of the bedding and removed once an accident happens. For cats that don’t travel well or if travelling a long distance, a ‘clean kit ‘of rubber gloves, wet wipes, spare liner pads and a plastic bag for soiled materials should be carried.
Ideally the basket should be removed from its storage place 2-3 days before the appointment and placed in the house e.g. near the feeding bowl, so that your cat becomes used to it. Spraying the basket with a pheromone spray such as ‘Feliway’ or ‘Pet Remedy’ may make the basket more appealing, as can putting treats in the basket. Allowing your cat to familiarise itself with the basket and rub of some of its scent onto the basket will make it less stressful when it is time for the trip.
Getting Your Cat Into The Basket
Prevent your cat from accessing areas where they can hide in inaccessible spots (e.g. under the bed). Place the basket with the lid/door open ready to receive your cat, and a few treats in it if they are responsive to food. If using a front-opening, having the basket in a corner of the room up against the wall can prevent the basket from moving backwards if your cat is reluctant to go into it voluntarily. Calmly but decisively collect your cat, holding it close to your body to prevent struggling. For cats that can struggle quite badly, wrapping them in a towel or blanket can enclose the legs and reduce their ability to escape. For top loading baskets the cat can usually be placed quite readily into the basket but be prepared to close the lid quickly if they are prone to jump out. For front loading baskets some cats will go in more easily if they are ‘backed in’ especially if they tend to brace their legs out in a wide stance.
Travelling In The Car
When carrying the basket to the car, try not to bounce it around too much. It may also be useful to cover the basket with a towel or blanket if the cat is likely to see unfamiliar things such as dogs or cars on the way to your vehicle. Once in the car, the basket should be secured with a seatbelt on the rear seats or in the passenger footwell. Securing the basket on the passenger seat could lead to problems if the airbag is deployed. It is not illegal to drive with a cat loose in the car, but you could be prosecuted if you cause an accident as a result of this. It also could lead to your cat escaping when you open the door. Talking to your cat throughout the journey can help to calm them, as can playing music, although this should be calming, rather than loud. Relaxing music for cats is available from on-line platforms.
Arriving At The Hospital
Keeping your cat covered with a blanket will stop them from seeing dogs or other cats that might upset them. On arrival at the reception desk, keep your basket up off the floor, as cats feel safer at a height. Our Client Care Team will try to ensure you can move as quickly as possible through to our cat only waiting room. Please let us know if your cat has soiled their carrier so we can attend to it straight away.
Our Cat Lounge
We’re very lucky to be able to provide a cat only waiting room in our hospital. A room free of the sight and sounds of other species is designed to help your cat relax before his or her appointment. Cats often appreciate being chatted to and stroked whilst waiting. If another cat is present, try to ensure your cat is turned away from them.
In The Consulting Room
We have a cat-only consulting room which has direct access from our cat lounge. We often try to give cats the opportunity to explore the area whilst we are taking the history (finding out about the problem). Ideally it is preferable for cats to come out of their basket on their own, rather than being lifted out, but many cats are shy and will not explore. This is where a basket that can be split into two halves can be useful, so that we can examine the cat without removing them from their basket.
Much of the advice given above applies in reverse for the trip home, but where there is more than one cat in the house the return greeting is not always friendly. Bringing something from home with the second cat’s scent on it can help the returning cat acclimatise on the way home. On arriving home, keep the ‘patient’ in the basket and monitor for any aggression in the cat(s) that have stayed at home, as the ‘patient’ will often smell differently. If the cats seem unhappy with the returning patient, then it is best to keep them in a separate room for 24 hours or so until they regain the familiar smells of home.
A number of medications may be considered if your cat does not travel well or if he or she is particularly anxious or stressed when visiting vets. We recommend that you speak to your vet about appropriate medication. Alternatively, one of our Feline team would be more than happy to speak to your vet about current effective and beneficial medication.