Surviving Cat Basket Phobia!

DrPaul -

Surviving Cat Basket Phobia!

Does your cat vanish into thin air as soon as the cat basket appears? Is it a battle of wills to get them in to their carrier with one of you (usually you) coming off worse than before you started? Unfortunately the basket problem is extremely common and is often a source of great anxiety for both cat and owner.

As a result many cat owners will put off trips to the vets, even missing vital preventive health care trips altogether, simply because the stress to both parties is intolerable.

The good news is, with a bit of time and effort, there are ways to reverse this basket problem completely!

Cat Basket Etiquette

• Check your carrier is large enough for your cat and remember one cat per basket. Never force more than one cat into a carrier.
• It is important to purchase your own cat basket and not to borrow a friend or neighbours. Your cat will not tolerate the smells or unfamiliarity of another cats’ carrier, even if you have cleaned it before use.
• Open wire carriers will leave cats feeling exposed and vulnerable. Ideal carriers, usually made from plastic, provide security while allowing your cat to see what is happening.
• A top/roof opening often makes life easier when getting your cat in and out of their carrier.
• Use familiar bedding your cat likes to sleep on for comfort.
• Place something absorbent, e.g. newspaper or an incontinence pad, underneath the bedding in case of any accidents.
• Never place your cat basket at ground level at the vets as this is a very threatening level to be at especially if other cats and dogs are within immediate view. Place on your lap or on a chair if designated cat basket bays are not available at your surgery.
• To prevent escapes, always carry the basket with both hands and never by the handle

In extreme cases you may need to purchase a new carrier if your cat has extremely negative feelings about their old one.

Making The Basket A Home from Home

Often cat owners will store their cat baskets out of the way. Whether it is a garage, shed or loft, to your cat it can only mean one thing; a likely journey to the vets is impending. For this reason your cat will immediately regard it with suspicion and trepidation. They may even associate it with pain.
Here are some simple steps on how to de-sensitise and in turn de-stress our cats to this perceived foe.

Step 1.
If practical keep your cat’s basket out all of the time. Leave it with the door open (ensuring it cannot suddenly close behind them) and keep it somewhere quiet. If this is not possible then try to leave it out for at least 2 weeks before an anticipated visit.

Step 2.
Placing treats, toys, catnip and familiar bedding inside the carrier will help to encourage your cat enter feely. This will help to make them feel comfortable and will also start alleviating any fear and suspicion connected to the carrier.

Step 3.
Try using a calming pheromone spray. Calming pheromone sprays help to relax your cat; travel sprays are best-used 15 minutes before a journey is undertaken.

Step 4.
Once your cat is comfortable and relaxed with going in and out of the carrier start practising closing the door and lifting the carrier with your cat inside. Do this gradually and practise standing outside with your cat in the carrier. This is to get them accustomed to the sounds and smells of being outdoors within the confines of their basket.

With gradual encouragement, and this could take weeks to months of perseverance, your cat will start to relax around what once was a dreaded object. You may just find that they adopt it to be their own little sleeping sanctuary!

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.