A vet too far...
August 16, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Tess HATEZ THE CARZ but she's not doing too well. The vet is an hour away. We don't have a cat carry box.

Over the past three months our 17yr old meowing machine has:
* lost weight and become a lot more agile. Is now jumping up on all the benches.
* has developed an allergy after eating some (all meat) mince chicken pet food. Was scratching and licking much more than usual and had scabs around her neck. It now seems to be lessening after switching around her food.
* meows for food when there is still some on her plate. When alerted to the food, she starts eating. The food she misses is always on the western side of the plate when she is facing north.

Yesterday I woke to find she had crawled into bed with me, pissed herself, and left again. What a drag but maybe a one off. Today she did the same on Hug-buddy's side. This is really sad as bed cuddles with Tess are a highlight of our day.

I guess she has an old cat urinary tract infection or kidney problem. She hasn't been to the vet or travelled in a car for 15yrs except one time for a quarter mile on our farm. The experience was terrifying for her and dangerous for me as she escaped from her cardboard box and scratched me up.

The internet suggested a spoon of yoghurt daily to see if that helps her bladder problem. She likes it and I will see if it helps. Any other suggestions?

And how do we get her to the vet an hour away without stressing her to death? Sob.
posted by Kerasia to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a mobile vet in your area? I have a vet that comes to the house for an extra $30 and let me tell you it is so worth it. You might research for mobile or visiting vets in your vicinity.
posted by sockermom at 6:21 PM on August 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would buy a dedicated cat carrier from your local pet store and take your cat to the vet. They are designed to contain the cat much better than a cardboard box and provide better ventilation and comfort. Both Petsmart and Petco have hard-sided carry kennels in cat size for under $40.
posted by equestrian at 6:45 PM on August 16, 2014 [19 favorites]

Yep, buy a carrier. She won't be able to escape, and she'll be much less stressed than she will be clinging to the roof of the car.
posted by jrochest at 7:36 PM on August 16, 2014

If you don't have easy access to Petsmart and Petco, and there isn't a mobile vet, go to Amazon and order a carrier. Cardboard boxes/carriers are useless for anything larger than a kitten, really, unless the cat is very laid-back. I would suggest a carrier that's hard-sided and also a top-loader, as, in my experience, both of these things make it easier to get the cat into the carrier. Kidney problems and urinary tract infections are absolutely a major issue in older cats--my cat Victoria, who is 15, is in chronic renal failure--and a change in her urination habits does need looking at immediately. (I'd also ask the vet about her inability to perceive her food when it's in one particular spot.)

It's likely that Tess will yell all the way to the vet. As I once had to drive Victoria 100 miles for a major medical procedure, I feel your pain. You can try spraying Feliway in the car and inside the carrier, which may help, or drape a towel over the top of the carrier. It's a good idea to put a towel to which you are not deeply attached in the carrier, both to make it more comfortable for the cat and to make it easier to clean up if there are, ah, accidents.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:36 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

My male cat, which never sprays, pissed on the front seat of my car over stressing over a vet visit. From INSIDE his carrier. Now he goes on the floor, on top of a garbage bag layer, with a towel in his carrier, just in case.
posted by emjaybee at 7:43 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Can I use a friend's pet carrier or will the smell from the other cat or small dog freak Tess out more?
posted by Kerasia at 7:45 PM on August 16, 2014

Borrowed cat carrier--Depends usually on how frequently/how recently they used it. You can always wash it down with soap and water and put a towel or something that smells like you/Tess in it (that you don't mind getting peed on). Depending on when you schedule the appointment, leaving it around the house, open, where she can explore it before hand is good, too.

If you get a mobile vet, try to get a small animal vet. Large animal vets are honestly just not as used to cats as a small animal vet.
posted by anaelith at 7:52 PM on August 16, 2014

The thrift stores near my house regularly have those carriers. Also, my old roommate worked at a shelter and then a pet daycare and they had piles of slightly beat up ones. I'd check the thrift store, then call a couple of those places near your house and ask if they had any extras.

You can always just put them in the shower and hose them down with hot soapy water real good, disassembled. I remember feeling like they were vaguely a ripoff new, but i forget how much they actually cost retail.
posted by emptythought at 7:54 PM on August 16, 2014

Please do whatever you need to do to get her to the vet.

(She's a lovely cat.)
posted by Boogiechild at 9:27 PM on August 16, 2014

If she is fighting putting her in the carrier, wrap/swaddle her in a towel to put her in and then let her use it for comfort once in.
posted by 724A at 9:40 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No mobile vet treatment available except for bovine, equine, ovine and the odd camelid client. No pet shops or thrift stores selling carriers. Neighbour with carrier not home.

I have a large bare wicker picnic basket - pic of like basket. Could I put her in that with soft things and strap down the lid? I'll be holding it as we drive. Or are the wicker bits a danger?
posted by Kerasia at 1:02 AM on August 17, 2014

That basket looks terrifying.

I would go for the towel/blanket + swaddling technique 724A mentions, since someone else will be driving. And sit in the back seat it it's more comfortable.

I held an unhappy kitty this way clear across Nebraska years ago and there were a few scratches when he wriggled out, sure, but in general it seemed to be the most successful approach since we didn't have the carrier.

Your cat is beautiful. Please take her to the vet as soon as you can.
posted by mochapickle at 3:56 AM on August 17, 2014

Response by poster: That basket looks terrifying.

Why? (Honestly, I know nothing about transporting cats despite owning them for years). If you can tell me what the terrifying aspects are I can see if I can modify. My actual basket is quite a bit bigger than the one pictured and fits her cat bed.

Don't have a back seat. Have a single-cab truck or a large van with no cabin separation. Neither are ideal for our immediate needs but they are what we have.
posted by Kerasia at 4:42 AM on August 17, 2014

I just know my trans-Nebraska kitty would have freaked out in an enclosed space with no way to see out and the lid strapped down. He hated his carrier (which had views on all sides), and swaddling seemed to be the only safe way to transport him.

Front seat or back seat doesn't matter. I'd just been thinking of the driver's safety in case Tess wriggled free.

The important thing, OP, is that you get sweet Tess to the vet to make sure everything's OK. I'd hate for this discussion to delay action to needed care.
posted by mochapickle at 5:06 AM on August 17, 2014

There is nothing wrong with transporting her in that basket if that is what you have. Look, your beautiful cat, your faithful kitty companion, needs to be seen. Please don't trifle with yogurt or other home remedies until she's been examined by a vet. It's just as likely as not that she has a terribly common and easily and cheaply treatable old cat condition like thyroid disease or some such. It is totally fine to put her in a towel inside that basket which has plenty of holes for air. Will she like it? No, but you'll be fulfilling the promise you made to her when you got her that you'd keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

It might pump up your adrenaline and make you anxious to get her in the basket and ride in the car with her, but I know you can do it. Taking her to the vet is priority number one.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:12 AM on August 17, 2014 [18 favorites]

I totally agree -- to clarify, OP, I'm sorry if I seemed overreactive about the basket. It's just a matter of getting her there and getting her seen ASAP. I can't favorite IOD's comment hard enough.
posted by mochapickle at 5:18 AM on August 17, 2014

My parent tell stories about transporting a cat in a pillowslip. Essentially, drop cat into pillow slip, and wait until the cat's head reappears, then synch around the neck with something. The internet doesn't have much info, but some websites are suggesting to use the pillowcase as a sack. Still, might be worth a try.
posted by kjs4 at 6:26 AM on August 17, 2014

You could try feeding her before the trip to make her more sleepy. (Not recommended if she's the type to poop her pants.)

I have a cat that freaks out no matter what I do. In that case I limit what he can see. Also I've found it helpful to keep talking. If they can hear your voice it is comforting & familiar. Finally do it during the day since night lights can be scary. Consider asking the vet for a MILD sedative for the ride home.

You could try putting her in the car (engine off) for 10mins (with food?) so she gets used to it.

As for the carrier, I say whatever works. As long as there's a soft towel on the bottom. When I was a kid we used an open cardboard box and I held it in my lap.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:29 AM on August 17, 2014

The vet I worked for recommended pillowcases. Some cats calm down in them and see it as snuggly. But all cats are different.

The basket will be fine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2014

I recommend bringing a second person if possible, to soothe the cat (petting seems to help some cats) and manage her if she gets out.
posted by amtho at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2014

The thrift stores near my house regularly have those carriers.

FYI, it might be difficult to find second-hand carriers because, at least in the US, individuals aren't allowed to sell their used ones. It's some kind of health issue. That's why there never are any listed on Craigslist -- they're not allowed to be listed there, and if someone does list one, the listing is taken down.

Honestly, I don't think the basket is a good idea, because wrestling Tess into it and then trying to trap her inside through the whole bumpy trip to the vet sounds like a recipe for making Tess feel even worse and possibly even getting hurt. Do you have any netting? I would just put some netting (even something like a sheer window curtain or toile or something) between the front and back seats of your car, and sit with Tess in the back. The whole point of using a carrier is to make sure that Tess doesn't get in the driver's way (such as, by going under the peddles or something), so if you have another way of making sure she doesn't do that (such as, by putting up a cloth/fabric/tarp/whatever barrier between the front and back seats -- one that's transparent enough for the driver to see through but will keep Tess from getting into the front seat) then you're fine. Unless the cops in your area are positively *horrible,* or you get pulled over for some other thing, you're not going to run into legal trouble.

Also, lay towels on the backseat's seats and floor, because she's pretty likely to pee. She'll also probably like cuddling in the towels. Maybe bring the basket with you as a show of good faith to the vet ("see, I tried to use a carrier!" kind of thing), but don't worry about trying to cram Tess into it. Expect Tess to be screaming and yelling virtually the whole time, but also expect that once the car is moving, she'll want to stay in one spot where she's not touching you or anybody (probably for balance). That's how my cats have always acted in the car, anyway. Don't give Tess a sedative, because that's likely to make her feel more confused and lead to a crummier mood and more fear on her part (again, that's just coming from my experience with cats).

Just a thought, but I would also ask your vet about whether the peeing-the-bed that Tess has been doing could be related to any kind of seizure. I'm not a vet and don't know, but as a cat-owner, that's something that I'd want the vet to rule out (along with UTI, etc).

Also, if you have a fecal sample at the ready, take it! The vet will be able to run tests on it. She's also likely to inject fluid to make Tess pee right there in the office. If Tess ends up being prescribed any pills, ask the vet whether she has any pill-pockets you can use. Don't worry too much about how you're going to get Tess back home after the appointment -- she's going to be so ready to get back in the car and get out of the vet's office that it's probably not going to be half the struggle it was getting her there in the first place.

Ultimately, you *do* want to get a carrier. I understand about money being tight, but it's essential health/safety gear, like a litter box or a collar. I sort of splashed out for mine and got a soft-sided Sherpa, and am extremely happy with it. It opens from the top and/or the side, has vents on three sides, and because it's soft-sided, it's much easier to put wherever it needs to be (under a seat, or wherever), and easy to carry (it looks and feels like carrying a duffel bag). It's also extremely well-made and is lasting extremely well. The hard-sided carriers are usually a bit less expensive, but they're much bulkier, the vents are smaller and difficult to see through, they're awkward to carry, and they're hard to fit places. Still, a hard-sided carrier is much better and easier to use than a basket or a pillow case. Even if you have to go as cheap as possible when you're getting a carrier, do get one. And I will say that I think that spending extra and getting a really nice carrier, if that's possible, honestly is worth it in terms of ease of use and the longevity of the carrier itself. Plus, you *can* use your own carrier for other cats aside from Tess if necessary, you just can't try and sell it secondhand.
posted by rue72 at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2014

FYI, it might be difficult to find second-hand carriers because, at least in the US, individuals aren't allowed to sell their used ones. It's some kind of health issue. That's why there never are any listed on Craigslist -- they're not allowed to be listed there, and if someone does list one, the listing is taken down.

I didn't know this was a rule. I sold ours on craigslist in January. There are often carriers listed on craigslist in our area. Perhaps this is a state law?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2014

Also, to carrier or not to carrier is a question dependent on the cat. We have one cat who freaks out MORE without a carrier and one who will do himself injury to get out of a carrier and is relatively laid back in the car.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2014

When I was a kid, we didn't have carriers and used a pillow case or cotton laundry bag. Make sure Tess is secure, on your lap or on the floor of the car, so she doesn't get tossed around and she should be fine. I used to sit with them in my lap in the back seat and rub them (rub the outside of the pillow case).
posted by hydropsyche at 12:30 PM on August 17, 2014

I know a cat who sticks his legs out like a starfish to avoid being put in a carrier, so his people made him a starfish-proof one by drilling lots of ventilation holes in the lid and sides of a tallish Rubbermaid box. They bungee the lid on and take him to the vet that way. The Rubbermaid has the added bonus of containing any pee accidents.
posted by corey flood at 10:06 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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