Getting Your Cat to the Vet: Fear-Free Travel | Lola The Rescued Cat
Friday, August 16, 2019

Getting Your Cat to the Vet: Fear-Free Travel

Welcome back to our “Getting Your Cat to the Vet” series. I’m excited to continue my collaboration with Tabitha Kucera of Chirrups and Chatter to bring you the second installment, Fear Free Travel.

Fear Free Travel to the Vet

We all want a calm, easy vet visit with our cat, and the way to do that is to make it as low stress as possible. Here are some tips to make your next trip more enjoyable for both of you.

It all starts at Home

A successful trip to the vet starts right at home. What should you do? Get your cat used to the carrier and make it a home away from home. Tabitha shared her wisdom on this subject in our previous post, which you can read here. And remember, the safest way to transport your cat is in her carrier.

Prepare the car so it Promotes a Calming Environment

We all have our own way of preparing for stressful events. Some of us may meditate or listen to classical music, while others may take a run around the block or rock out to heavy metal music. Our cats are no different, but they rely on us to make their environment calm. Here are a few things you can do to make kitty’s ride less stressful.

  • Spray calming pheromones (such as Feliway) in your car and/or the carrier 10- 15 minutes prior to your cat entering. This can help keep your cat calm.
  • "Be calm, and remember for cats that "shhh!" sounds a lot like hissing," Tabitha says, "so try to avoid shushing if they are vocalizing."

Practice Proper Cat Carrier Etiquette

Yes, there is proper etiquette that should be followed when carrying your cat in their carrier! When you transport your cat, Tabitha suggests that you support the carrier from the bottom, with one side resting against your chest verses by the handle. Your cat does not want to go on a roller coaster ride! Carrying the carrier in this manner helps your cat to feel more stable and secure.

Properly Secure the Carrier in the Car

Many cat owners may be tempted to place the carrier in the passenger seat and use the seatbelt to secure it. While we may think our cat will feel more secure near us, this isn’t the safest option. Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety (CPS)  says that we should not “use the seatbelt to strap in the carrier" unless it has been crash tested. "Place plastic carriers and soft-sided carriers on the floor of the vehicle behind the front driver or passenger seats”, and Tabitha agrees. Here are Tabitha’s suggestions for car safety.

Lexy in her crash tested Sleepypod

  • Place the carrier on the floor behind the passenger seat which is the most secure location. It is also the location where there is the least amount of motion.

Photo by Bencmate

  • Place a pheromone infuse towel over the carrier, leaving one side uncovered for ventilation.
  • Place a non-slip surface in and under carrier/crate or on the car seat.
  • Make sure to secure large crates or carriers to prevent sliding.
  • To prevent carsickness, accelerate slowly from a stop, allow extra distance between other vehicles to prevent sudden braking, and take turns slowly.

Most importantly, it is very dangerous to allow your cat to walk around your vehicle unsecured. Not only could she interfere with your driving by getting in the way of your hands and feet, but she could also be severely injured in the event of an accident.

Avoid Feeling Rushed

Before your visit, be prepared with your cat's medical history. It's also a good idea to leave a little early so you have plenty of time to arrive as scheduled, and avoid feeling rushed. When we're rushed we tend to be more stressed and anxious, and our cats pick up on these emotional cues.

Photo via Getty Images

Notify the Veterinary Hospital Team When You Arrive

Rather than bringing your cat directly into the veterinary hospital when you arrive, call the front desk and let them know that you are in the parking lot. This way they can call or text you when the exam room is ready. This will help prevent the stressors that can occur in a lobby (dogs barking, dogs walking by sniffing the carrier, etc.)

Cats need five to ten minutes to adjust to their new surroundings and feel safe. If you cannot avoid waiting in the lobby, place your cat’s carrier on an elevated surface & cover the front and two sides with a pheromone-infused towel.

We hope these tips help you and your cat get to the vet in a more low-stress manner. If your cat experiences nausea and/or stress during travel along with the steps above, talk to your vet about possible anti-nausea or anti-anxiety supplements or medications.

Stay tuned for part three in this series where we will discuss why a fear-free vet visit is beneficial for your cat. 

What do you do to make your cat comfortable during travel? Tell us in the comments!


Tabitha Kucera is a level 3 Fear Free and Low Stress Handling Certified Registered Veterinary Technician, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.  She is the owner of Chirrups and Chatter cat and dog behavior consulting and training in Cleveland, Ohio. 

She has been working with cats and dogs for over 10 years and in that time has worked with a number of rescue organizations and small animal practices. Her work in these fields shed light on repeated occurrences of feline and canine euthanasia and re-homing due to behavioral issues. She quickly became dedicated to learning about the prevention, root causes, and solutions to feline and canine behavioral concerns. She continued to teach herself more about behavior through continuing education, workshops, completing her low stress handling and fear free certifications, graduating from the Karen Pryor Academy and obtaining her KPA-CTP, and became a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Keeping animals in their loving homes is her utmost goal – this reduces euthanasia as well as displacement of animals from their homes, where canines and felines often end up in stressful shelter environments. She helps people better understand and relate to their animal companions which leads to a stronger bond and a more gratifying relationship between animal and human. 

She currently is a Fear Free certified speaker,  serves as the co-chair of Pet Professional Guild’s Cat Committee, the president of the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians, and she serves on the board of The Together Initiative for Ohio’s Community Cats. 

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  1. Those are all good tip but we just don't like the car noise, we need a sound proof carrier MOL!

  2. I've never really thought about music to calm the kitties; great suggestion!

  3. mom wonders if we can borrow her when Goldfish has to go to the vet this fall.... :)

  4. Great post. I want a sleepy pod for my cats. I always wondered how they seat belt in so I am glad you had a photo of that. XO

  5. Tabitha never met me! TW does most of that except we don't have a car so she can't prepare the car. They cover the case with a towel but Pop swings it to and fro, MOL!

  6. This is great! I wish I'd known these things when I had Kitty. But I learned the hard way (read: with lots of claws and biting).

  7. Great tips ! Claire used to put our PTU on the seats and secure them with seatbelt, but next time she'll put them behind each front seat. Purrs

  8. These are all really great tips... although my human refuses to listen to anything but her noisy alt rock music!

  9. These are good tips. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  10. Great tips for a car ride. I only sing in the car when the carrier is not on Granny's lap...this of course when Grandpaw is driving ;) Pawkisses for a wonderful Sunday to all of you🐾😽💞

  11. Great tips! Our vet always suggests calling from the parking lot, too!


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