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How Do I get a Difficult Cat in a Pet Taxi?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

I've had my little feral rescue cat Blackbean now for almost three years, and he is just a dear, loves to be hugged and petted, but because I've had to keep him here "illegally" in my apartment, he isn't used to seeing a lot of people besides me. This isn't normally a problem, and I've thought about adding another cat to give him more company. (I'm moving to a different place next month where I don't have to hide him, though this current apt is huge and he gets the run of it at night.) I've taken him from a hardly recognizable frightened little guy at the pound to a big almost overweight shiny and healthy looking cat who is almost strangely obedient (comes when I call him, even without food, goes in "his room" at night, only scratches on his little scratch post, etc.)

But I have to admit that he definitely has a neurotic problem. To this day I can pet and hug him, but I can still never actually pick him up, and what's worse, never get him into a carrier. At first I was able to trick him in there when he needed to be moved or taken to the vet, but he's wised up to that! Right now I've got a bunch of totally feral-origin cats in my neighborhood that are far easier to pick up and hug than my own cat!

So now I have to move this month, absolutely have to get him moved by a certain date, and don't know what to do. Last time I went through this I had to give up after almost 24 hours of trying to force him into a carrier. He didn't scratch me, but if I have someone come in to help shut the carrier while I hold him, he hides from them immediately. He seems to get into a frenzy that can actually be dangerous; from what I've read you might call it "fearful aggression" I guess.

I'm going to call the vet I got to know who operated on little Trio, the amputee kitten (who is now living a life of luxury at a friend's house in Plantation), and ask for maybe Reconcile or something to use either temporarily or long-term to help with my cat's obvious anxiety and high-strung behavior, combining it of course with more patient training.

So my question is --assuming I might get my vet to prescribe Reconcile or similar without being able to get my cat to the vet's (he's been there previously when he was easier to trick into the carrier), just how dangerous is this medicine? Or what about some other kind of sedative that I might be able to give him? Some vet online said they used an antihistamine in situations like this. Do you think that would be better? I don't want to risk injury to my cat or to myself in this move, but I also don't want to risk losing him to some kind of drug reaction.

Note that I've already tried the homeopathic Anxiety over a long period of time, with questionable effect, and Feliway sometimes takes the edge off his behavior, but not enough to really make a big difference if I'm trying to move him. Any suggestions?

Nancy


Answer

Hi Nancy– thanks for your email. Wow - what a dilemma. I don't have any perfect solutions for you. I haven't seen that many cats that I couldn't get in a carrier but this cat sounds "special".

The ideal situration is to make the carrier a positive place by leaving it out and playing with your cat in and around it. You can also offer treats in it. Make it a "good thing". This will take some time, maybe a lot of time that you don't have.

I guess as a short-term solution, at home I'd try to "herd" him into the bathroom or small space/room and corner him into the carrier (or wall him in if you have one of the units that open from the side). Once he is in - then moving him is the easy part.

Another option is to get or borrow a big dog type crate – even the type that are 4 x 6 feet - one that he may not recognize as a "cage" and let him walk in there, close it. Maybe if it is BIG – he won't think it is that stressful for the move. Once he is in, cover it with a light blanket or sheet so he feels safe but and can't see what is going on. Once he is in and secure, carry it out, and move him.

I'm not a big fan of tranquilizers in cats -- they don't work that well at home either in my experience.

An article that might be helpful to you is Moving with Cats.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra




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