Betty-Boop, an adult female cat, went to the vet with her loving owners – a stressful, but routine event. The ride was almost over when the carrier she was traveling in fell apart – right in the parking lot near the vet clinic. The scared cat ran off in a panic and has been missing since that sad day, according to a poster in the vet clinic.
The complete details of this sad story are unknown, but it seems safe to assume that if the carrier was more sturdily built, this tragedy could have been averted. Picking a cat carrier, even if it is only used for short rides to your vet, should not be a question of cost or convenience, but of the safety and wellbeing of your pet.
Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a new pet carrier:
1. The screws.
Plastic latches are not enough to secure the bottom part of a carrier to its top. Many carriers come with metal screws – at the very least in the four corners. However, sometimes you may find a carrier with a few pre-drilled holes for screws, but the screws themselves are not included, either because they are offered as a separate product, or because shoplifters have got them before you. Make sure the carrier you are going to buy has those screws, otherwise, it is destined to fall apart – sooner or later. Also, don’t forget to check the screws each time you’re putting your pet in for an outting to ensure they are snug.
2. Pick the right size.
The best advice regarding the size of a carrier is that it should be big enough to allow your cat to stand up without crouching, and he/she should be able to turn around with the door closed. Even if you are not going to take your cat any further than to a vet clinic, your cat should be comfortable and have enough room to stretch his/her legs.
Generally, a carrier should be one and a half times the size of your cat. However, bigger doesn’t mean better – your pet should not be able to slide from one side to another while in transport in order to avoid bumps or other harm.
3. What about soft carriers?
Soft carriers are usually smaller in size, but cozier. Soft carriers with a proper support structure and stable interior are good for short rides to a vet, as long as you don’t have to accommodate water and food bowls inside. Make sure that the closure fasteners are properly secured to prevent an accidental runaway or injury, and that the materials are suitable and safe for use with your pet.
4. Proper Ventilation and Privacy
Cats like privacy, especially when they are under stress at a vet office. A carrier should provide your pet with enough privacy, but still be breathable. Your pet may want to hide inside the carrier when there are strangers or bigger animals around – make sure your carrier is a good fit for that.
Cats are highly curious, and may try to stick their paws through the mesh in the opening or between the ventilation grids on the side panels – make sure their paws are bigger than the gaps, so they won’t get caught and/or injured.
5. Help your pet acclimate to the carrier by making it a fun place before you need it
Many vets are trying to convey to pet owners that pets should not be afraid of their carriers. When pets are scared, they may do less than logical things increasing the potential of harming themselves. Once your pet has learned that a carrier only means an unpleasant ride to a clinic, he/she may run away and hide as you bring that “thing” out of the closet. When you eventually manage to catch your little escape artist and close him/her in the carrier, the ride with a frightened pet is neither pleasant nor relaxing for you or them.
Fear often prompts both people and pets make bad decisions, so you should try to lower the stress level as much as possible. It is recommended to leave a carrier on the floor, open, for a few days, so that your pet will be able to smell it and investigate it on his/her terms and not because he/she is being forced into it. Placing a few toys and/or treats into it may help your pet to familiarize itself with the cage and make the transport an easier ride for all.
Remember, you get what you pay for and cheaper is not necessarily better. Pay the extra bit to get the quality carwell-being ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your furry friend.
If you happen to live near Leamington, Ontario, please keep your eyes open – maybe one day you’ll spot Betty-Boop somewhere – noticeably slimmer, with messy and dirty hair, but otherwise recognizable. And “near” for cats may mean quite a large area – some of the cats from our area managed even to cross the border and were returned to their heartbroken owners after two years, so there still is hope! Please keep looking. If you spot the cat please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect you with the cat owners.