Monday, July 30, 2012

Parking Lot Catastrophe Prevention

This blog is dedicated to all the lost cats who are running loose in the woods behind the vet clinic where I work.  Yes, it happened again this past week.  Well it's not a weekly occurrence, but it does happen a handful of times every year.   The latest episode goes something like this.  A client was attempting to carry their cat in their arms from the parking lot into the clinic.  A dog that was inside a parked car barked.  The cat got scared and escaped its owner's grasp.  Cat runs far far away.  The owner goes after the cat and tries to call it (good luck with that one with a scared cat in a strange environment).  There are infinite places to hide in the great outdoors and the cat is never seen again.  For the life of me, I do not understand why anyone would bring their cat to a strange location and not have them confined inside a carrier.  I feel so bad for people who lose their cats in this way, but it is so preventable.

There are really no good reasons for not having a cat carrier.  Years back they were a little pricey, but nowadays you can pick up a really decent carrier for under $20.  If you can afford to have a cat, you can afford to have a carrier.

The biggest complaint I get from owners is that they have a really hard time getting their cat into the carrier.  Well I am going to share a tip that is going to make loading your cat into a carrier as easy as pie.  Step 1: make your cat's carrier part of the household furniture.  If you are anal retentive about how your house looks, first you should not have a cat.  A cat comes along with hair covered furniture and the occasional pile of hair induced vomit that seems to end up in just the right spot on the floor so it squishes between your toes when you are stumbling your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  But lets say you can live with furry couch cushions and slimy cat food between your toes, but you don't want to be tripping over that carrier everyday.  Well this is the time to get creative.  I'll bet with a little thought, a cat carrier strategically placed and decorated can fit into any decor.  If you have a dog, you may want to place the carrier up off the floor (you will see why in step 2).

Step 2: Now that the cat carrier is part of the living space, this is where you are going to feed your cat.  Every day.  Forever.  And always.  Now I will warn you that if you have multiple cats that don't get along at feeding time, you may have to put out a couple carriers or work out other creative solutions, but for most folks, this works well.  And it looks something like this.

Feeding time at my household:

Cat food goes into a dish and into the carrier and Voila!

Even when it is not feeding time, I never have problems getting a cat into the carrier because they are in the carrier multiple times a day every day of their lives.  There is no fear.

And as a bonus I have a tip in case you have a cat that needs to be moved from point A to point B and you for some reason do not have a carrier.  Enter the old pillow case.  I learned this back in my farm vet days in Pennsylvania although really it was usually a cloth feed sack and only occasionally a pillow case.  I was a vet in the 1980's when Pennsylvania enacted its state law that every dog and every cat HAD to have a rabies vaccination.  We would hold these rabies vaccination clinics on Saturdays.  I think it cost $5 to get your dog or cat vaccinated.  We'd have traffic lined up for quite a ways down the state route where our vet practice was located.  But what I remember most was how many farmers caught up these mostly feral barn cats and hauled them to the clinic to get vaccinated.  The farmers would put on a pair of leather work gloves at home, catch the cat and stuff it in an old burlap feed sack or a pillow case.   Many of these cats were so wild that we would vaccinate them right through the feed sack without even opening it up.  A needle goes through cloth just as easily as it does skin.  These cats were quiet and subdued inside the sack and while traveling away from home in a truck was stressful I am sure, these cats were calmly vaccinated with no freaking out and no wounds inflicted on any people.  Crazy stuff, but what a great lesson for a young veterinarian.   I don't know why I get so much resistance with this method because it works REALLY well.  The cat is confined and can breathe and dang, it just works.

Back to cat transportation via pillow case.  After you find a pillow case, next you find a cat.  I will purposely demonstrate with the cat on the left because she can be hard for me to handle at times.

Slip the cat into the pillow case all the way.  Most cats are not afraid of cloth like objects because they sleep, shed and throw up on them all the time.  They usually like to crawl into dark spaces (think boxes or paper grocery sacks) so most cats will not resist going inside a pillow case.   I would suggest not using a really thin pillow case though because I have seen cats shred through them, but most cats will just sit there.  Get them inside as much as you can and then pick up the pillow case so they slip all the way to the bottom.  Make sure to tie the pillow case shut.

And there you have a perfect cat carrier in a pinch.  Next is a picture of Miss Louise right after I let her back out.  And in case you think that I could do anything I want with this cat, I purposely chose the cat on the left because she IS kind of skittish at times and I DO have trouble catching her at times.  The cat on the right would not be fair because I literally could do anything to that cat if I wanted.  But Louise can be a challenge.  Thank goodness for catching her during sleepy moments.

Although she was a little perturbed that her nap was interrupted, Louise did not immediately run away even though I picked her up in the pillow case and carried her around for a bit before letting her out.  And this cat WILL run away when I let go of her if I do something to her that she does not like such as her monthly flea/heartworm prevention or a session with the grooming comb.  I won't say this method works for 100% of cats because nothing does, but it works for most and works well.  Just remember to use a sturdy pillow case.  One extra caution, I probably wouldn't use this on a really really sick cat or one that was having trouble breathing.  Get yourself a carrier.

And there you go.  Two methods for getting your cat safely to the vet clinic or anywhere else without risking the parking lot catastrophe.  There is nothing worse then losing a cat miles from home.