No joke — today is National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day. Do we actually expect you do drop everything, stuff your cat in a carrier and race to the veterinarian (who’ll be glad to see you, don’t get me wrong, but will wonder why you didn’t make an appointment)? Nope, of course not. The point is that while 84% of dogs visit the vet regularly, only 64% of cats do. (Partners for Healthy Pets white paper)

The top reason people gave for not taking their cats in more frequently: IT’S STRESSFUL. Stressful for the cat and stressful for the owner. I get that. I’ve had cats that even the thought of trying to get them in a carrier made me shudder. But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that help.

1. Feliway. You know how your cat rubs her cheeks against things when she’s happy? She’s marking those objects with happy kitty pheromone. Feliway is a synthetic version of that pheromone. Wipe or spray a little bit inside the carrier before putting your cat in. It won’t make your cat tap-dance for joy, but it does help the majority of cats be calmer.

Ah, you say, but getting the cat into the carrier is the sticky bit. Here’s where a bit of preparation can really help.

2. Leave the carrier in a place accessible to your cats with the door open. Spray a little Feliway inside and put in a comfy towel. Leave treats around it. Eventually, leave treats in it: at first near the door, then farther inside. Don’t try to put your cat in. If he does go in, don’t close the door. Just let her hang with it. Make it part of his everyday experience, a piece of his furniture. If this doesn’t work for your cat, it may be worthwhile to get a new carrier — one she doesn’t associate with scary trips to the vet. Most cats can be conditioned to accept the carrier in this way.

No time for that! you say. My appointment is this afternoon!

3. If you have one of those standard, hard-sided carriers: Stand it up on end with the door facing upward. Pick up your cat around the chest, so that her rear legs dangle. (Caution: don’t do this if your cat is painful or arthritic). Lower your cat into the carrier, rear legs first. Enjoy the look on her face when she realizes, too late, what’s happening. Close the door, pick up the carrier, and off you go.

But my cat is fine, you say. Why should I take him to the vet at all? Fair point, and one I’ll talk about soon.

For more tips on cats and carriers, check out these excellent articles from the American Association of Feline Practitioners:
Turning Your Cat Carrier Into A Home Away From Home

Choosing a Cat Carrier