Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat has never liked being put in a cage, but previously his displeasure was only announced by loud yowling. The last two times however, he urinated in the cage and out through it, making quite a mess and smell! I will need to transport him again in a couple of weeks, and would greatly appreciate any advice or tips about how to calm him so that this does not happen. The trip time in all cases is only about 15 minutes, but that is still too long!
Siouxsie: It’s a well-known fact that most cats hate being transported anywhere. But there are times when it just has to be done, like when it’s time to go to the vet for a checkup or when you humans are moving house.
Thomas: I personally make sure Mama knows just how much I hate going for rides by crying loudly the whole time and looking miserable. Fortunately, I don’t pee my carrier!
Dahlia: Miss Katrina used to pee and poo all over the carrier whenever she had to go to the vet. It was nasty. Especially ’cause Mama used our carrier. What a rude cat!
Siouxsie: Alan, it sounds like your cat may actually have been spraying if the urine got out through the sides of the carrier. Spraying, like urination, is an anxiety behavior. The good news is that there are some things you can do to prevent messes in the carrier and to make the cleanup easier if an accident does happen.
Thomas: The most important thing is to make sure the carrier isn’t big enough to give the cat room to make a mess. We cats certainly don’t enjoy sitting in our pee and poo anymore than you would. For most cats, a small or medium-sized carrier is quite sufficient to give us room to sit and relax. Our carrier is 19-1/4 x 13 x 11-1/2 inches (49 x 33 x 29 cm).
Dahlia: Make sure your kitty has time to do his business before being put in the carrier. Most cats use the litterbox within half an hour of eating. If you feed him at least an hour before transportation, your cat will have had a bowel movement and urinated before his trip. That way, even if he does get so scared that he has to pee, he won’t have as much to let go.
Siouxsie: It sounds like your cat is a very nervous traveler, Alan, so you can do some things to help him stay calm, too. We’d recommend purchasing some Feliway spray and spritzing the carrier a couple of times with it before you go. Feliway is a synthetic calming pheromone that is used to reduce anxiety and treat house soiling or spraying behavior. Our vet uses the Feliway Comfort Zone diffusers in the cat examining rooms at the clinic.
Thomas: Feliway is available at vets’ offices, pet stores, and online. If you do decide to use Feliway, don’t spray the cat and do not spray the Feliway while the cat is in the carrier. Feliway is not cheap, but please resist the urge to buy it at “discount” online outlets; the products sold at these discount outlets (from Feliway to flea control products like Advantage or Frontline) are often outdated or counterfeit, and therefore will most likely not be effective.
Dahlia: Bach Rescue Remedy is another product that can be used to help calm your cat. Rescue Remedy is a flower essence that is designed to help people and animals deal with emergencies and stressful events. Mama gives us Rescue Remedy by putting one drop on the tip of her finger and massaging it into the fur on the top of our head.
Siouxsie: When administering Rescue Remedy to pets, do not give it by mouth. The tincture is preserved in alcohol and it tastes extremely bitter and awful to us.
Thomas: You can prepare the carrier in advance in case your kitty has an accident despite all your calming efforts. Get some “piddle pads” from your pet store (or buy similar products at your local human drugstore or medical supply store) and line the bottom of the carrier with one or two. The pads will absorb the urine and keep it from forming puddles in the bottom of the carrier. They’ll also make the cleanup a lot easier.
Dahlia: If you don’t want to use piddle pads, you can put an old towel in the bottom of the carrier. The towel will absorb the urine, too. But there will be a little bit more of a mess to clean up, since towels aren’t as absorbent as products specifically designed for this purpose.
Siouxsie: You can keep your cat’s spray from getting all over your car by placing a sheet of plastic or a full-size garbage bag on the seat to catch any stray droplets that get out of the carrier.
Thomas: Of course, it goes without saying that if you haven’t had your cat neutered yet, it would be a very good idea to do so as soon as possible. Neutering will reduce the aroma of your cat’s spray and may actually stop spraying behavior altogether. It also reduces the risk that your cat will roam and fight with other tomcats in an attempt to mate with available females. I’m neutered, and I’m glad. It only hurt for a little while after I had the operation.
Dahlia: If the odor from your cat’s previous accidents and/or spraying is still lingering in your car or home, you can try an enzyme-based odor removal product (like this one or this one). Most people have very good luck with these products when they use them according to the directions on the packaging.
Siouxsie: On a completely unrelated note, we want to talk about the number of cat carriers a person should have. Even though we talked about “our carrier” at the beginning of the article, Mama does in fact have three carriers–one for each of us. She just keeps one inside the house since the house is small and we go to the vet one at a time.
Thomas: It’s crucial that you have a carrier for every cat in your home. If you have to evacuate during a natural disaster or leave your house in a hurry due to a fire or other emergency situation, a carrier for each cat is the only way you’re going to be able to get them out.
Dahlia: In an emergency, you’ve got to be able to contain your cats quickly so you can save them–and yourself too.
Siouxsie: Mama says there’s this thing called Murphy’s Law, which tends to go into effect at the very worst times. If you’re fleeing a natural disaster or a fire and you try to get more than one cat into a carrier, it’s very likely that one will escape while you’re putting the other one inside. This is especially true if the cats are scared or panicked.
Thomas: Even if you’re just moving to a new house, it’ll be a lot easier on your cats if each of them can make the move in their own carrier.
Dahlia: Good luck, Alan, and may you have many pee-free travels with your cat.