Help me take my cat to the vet, please
September 6, 2006 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Scabby cat neck and best way to catch and transport a cat that doesn't want to be caught or transported.

My cat has started to get scabs around her neck - which initially didn't concern me, but seems to be getting worse. There hasn't been any diet change and I don't have fleas - so if it's allergic I have no idea what it could be too, since there's been little change in my home for 6 months.According to the internet it could be a sign of ringworm or ear mites. and the dog HAS been VERY infrequently doing the carpet butt rub lately (which makes me worry about the dog, too, of course). so now I'm worried.

This however brings up the actual problem - getting my cat to a vet. My cat, who I love with an undying passion, is a monster when it comes to moving her. In my old house I could corner her, close doors but it would normally take several tries to get her into the carrier. when I moved from that house and went to move her it finally ended in an hour of battling and me and my father with severely scratched arms. The cat simply became too tired to fight any more. I do NOT want to do that again. Ever. To her or me.
New house is pretty open - there's a lot of room for her to manuever away, and honestly, trying to "catch" her is, like I said, as emotional draining as it is physically.
So, any suggestions on the best way to easily and humanely catch my scabby princess and also the best carrier to get for such a beast?
posted by starr226 to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
We used to capture ours in a canvas mail sack which was a little cumbersome but too thick to claw through, and just said "screw the carrier" On a longer trip I'd find a way to sort of pour the cat from the bag into the carrier [need wide-mouthed carrier] but for a short trip, you lace up the mail sack and the cat is usually fine assuming they don't have any sort of injury to begin with. If you're just putting the cat in the car, you don't really need a carrier. Getting the cat out can be somewhat of a problem, but they've usually calmed down some by then; you can line the bag with some catnip.
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 PM on September 6, 2006

If you can get her while she's resting, you can start by gently petting her back and while she's relaxed, covertly use a towel and in one fairly fast motion, cover her back from neck to butt and quickly wrap it around her body, including her paws. She'll end up "swaddled" with her legs closed within the towel and you can then support her butt with one hand and her chest with the other (holding the towel closed) and have her secure. Make the towel tight, so she can't move too much, but only her head and tail should be poking out.

Then, take the cat carrier and put it upright, so the opening is at the top and put her in starting with her butt first and then close the front of the cage as you pull your hand away when her head is in the cage. Leave the towel to drop off in the cage as you turn it back the right way. It may seem hard at first and you may need a few tries at the approach, but it may do the trick.

Another option is to lure her into a bathroom with a treat and you'll have less space to try to chase her around.
posted by cyniczny at 6:56 PM on September 6, 2006

I have a cat who doesnt like being put in her carrier, even though she enjoys car rides and likes going to my mom's which is usually the destination. She's smart too, and knows that when I pack my laundry baskets and my computer that Something is Happening and generally hides under the bed.

What I ended up doing is quietly prepping everything I can without alerting her that I'm planning on leaving, then scoop her up and pop her into the bathroom. She chills in there for the 15 minutes or so it takes for me to load my car with my stuff and my other cat (who thinks the carrier is great fun, jumps right in) and then go to get her.

She generally tries to make a squeeze out the door but once I'm in, I just sit with her for a few so she can relax, then set down the carrier with the door open. Sometimes I've had to stuff her in, but now she's used to the whole bathroom=no way out thing, and just goes in after a minute of my attention. One tactic that helped with the claws was wrapping her up in a towel, then placing her in front of the door, so that in order to get out of the towel, she had to go into the carrier, and then I could get her head and shoulders in without worrying about being gouged.

So in other words, no way out means things are a heck of a lot easier. I swear, once she gets under the bed, its hopeless.

I also rub the carriers with catnip and then shake them out so it still smells like the oil, which seems to relax them and makes them more willing to enter. Leaving them out on the floor all the time makes them less scary than if I just hauled them out of the closet every time they go to see the vet. And remember, BE FIRM. Animals can tell when you're determined and tend to get in line when you're willing to show them who's the boss.
posted by gilsonal at 7:00 PM on September 6, 2006

Lure the demon onto a open pillowcase laid on the floor. Pull sides of pillowcase up over demon and put the whole shebang into your carrier (which is sitting open end up). Let her work herself out of the pillowcase on her own.
posted by jamaro at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2006

There are also vets who do house calls (at least in my neck of the woods).

By the way, my tabbycat has migrating scabs around his face and neck that my vet says are allergies. They're ugly, but don't really seem to bother him (I never even see him scratching the spots!).
posted by acridrabbit at 7:56 PM on September 6, 2006

My mother's cat fought going to the vet; Bach's Rescue Remedy completely mellowed her out. It's safe for pets; here are some related articles: 1, 2, 3.
posted by candyland at 8:08 PM on September 6, 2006

I second the towel recommendation; it can be a life-saver. Outside of that, every cat (and every owner) is a bit different, but here are a couple of tips that I've found handy to getting a number of cranky cats in carriers over the years.

First, remember the "mother kitty death grip" spot -- the scruff in the back of the neck -- this is where mom grabs to carry kittens, and not coincidently, where a tom grabs when mating -- the reason for both being that most cats will tend to go limp when grabbed firmly and picked up by the scruff of the neck.

With a full-grown adult, you'll probably also want to support some of the weight under the stomach, but keep a solid and firm hold on the scruff -- done right and with determination, it's very difficult for a cat to bite the hand/arm that's holding the neck. Keep the supporting hand out of the way of the mouth, and your abdomen out of the way of the back claws. If you're really worried about getting hurt, you may want to consider wearing a heavy garment with long sleeves.

The second tip is to use a carrier that's plenty large, and prop it up so that it's sitting on the back wall of the carrier, with the door up, and open. Position cat over carrier, and drop ass-first into the hole. Be fast, and they won't grab the sides of the door, and be ready to get the door closed fast once the cat is in the carrier.

All of this sounds a little rougher than it is meant to, and than it usually is, but even if the cat puts up a strong fight, think of it as "tough love" -- a little loss of dignity (for you and cat both) isn't much of a price if it gets kitty to proper medical car.

Good luck!
posted by nonliteral at 8:25 PM on September 6, 2006

err... medical car == medical CARE, not an ambulance...
posted by nonliteral at 8:25 PM on September 6, 2006

If your cat enjoys catnip, then throw some inside the open carrier to lure her inside. You can also get catnip spray, which is convenient for squirting carriers. Leave the carrier out in the house all the time, instead of keeping it in a cupboard, and only pulling it out when the vet visit looms. THis way your cat starts to think of it as a piece of furniture not a horrific portable prison :) I have never been able to get the towel trick to work, somehow a paw always escapes the bundle.
posted by Joh at 8:34 PM on September 6, 2006

I'll add my voice to the cat burrito, which is the towel technique. I have a calm cat, but have cat sitted for mad bastards who needed shots. The cat burrito keeps the controlled, but does not cover their face, which I personally dislike, but some people believe is calming.
The scabby neck is most likely allergies. Get the cat to a vet and perfect the transportation technique, this in not the only time you will need it.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:43 PM on September 6, 2006

the scruff of the neck thing doesn't work on this feline. we tried it and she becomes the opposite of limp - a tornado of claws and teeth. it's not only terrifying and scary it looks for sure like she's going to break herself apart.
I'm going to give the towel trick a try, but I'm just not sure how I'm going to pull it off, technique-wise. I can pet her when she's calm and relaxed, and i can probably get a towel nearby, but how to get her quickly wrapped in it is going to be tricky. I'm going to try catnip, also, though in the past she's never seemed terribly interested in it.
posted by starr226 at 8:53 PM on September 6, 2006

I'm no help on the transport issue, but do you use a flea collar on the cat? Maybe even a collar that you might have purchased thinking it was a regular collar? My cat has super sensitive skin, and we had to take her to the vet after using a flea collar on her (they're worthless anyway). She had a ring of red bumps all around her neck.

Later, she had insane scabby, crusty bumps all along her spine and especially on the base of her tail. I took her to a vet who said it COULDN'T be fleas because she didn't have any "flea dust" (the black flecks). He recommended a VERY expensive food because he thought it was allergies. He also recommended a ton of blood tests because of all the other things it could be.

Based on a gut feeling, I grabbed a pack of Advantage. One dose of flea medicine and one week later, the scabs were 100% gone. She is so sensitive to fleas that as soon as she gets bitten, she attacks and bites her skin, so fleas don't have an opportunity to hang out and leave a lot of evidence that they are there.

Any of the veterinarian-sold flea meds are not too expensive, and you might try to rule that out first, before starting any special foods or long-term treatments.
posted by peep at 9:24 PM on September 6, 2006

I hd a cat who would absolutely go insane if we ever tried to put him in a carrier. One desperate day when we were moving out of our house and he had to travel, I put him in the laundry bag. Not a single mew ever on the ride to the new house- he was calm and quiet. It still seems like kind of a creepy thing to do, but it worked.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:27 PM on September 6, 2006

Oh, and if your cat is anything like this. Skip it.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 9:27 PM on September 6, 2006

luckily not quite that bad, kingfisher.

she doesn't wear a flea collar at all - but we don't have fleas in the house and she's entirely and indoor feline.
posted by starr226 at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2006

Regarding the mama-cat neck pinch: the first thing you need to do after grabbing a heapin' handful of cat scruff is to nab those back legs with your other hand. Cats is flexible critters, and will tend to try to kill your hand dead with their back paws unless otherwise occupied. This also provides a nice stabilizing handle to prevent you from ending up with a Cat Tornado Mitten of Doom, which rarely ends well. Just make sure you have your Portable Cat Prison prepped before you grab danger with both hands--there are few things worse than trying to open a carrier with your feet while holding a profoundly enraged cat who is just waiting for you to screw up.

Since cats come standard with Horrible Pointy Bits, you're going to want to get a nice, thick pair of leather gloves. Also, wear a work jacket with long sleeves, thick denim or cotton duck pants, and boots. I would not blame you for wearing protective head gear and eye protection--eye patches are only sexy if you're Nick Fury. If you've got some hockey gear lying around, you're set. This also makes future, post-vet reconciliation easier, since your cat may be confused as to the identity of its abductor, though your veterinary staff may not appreciate you wearing the disguise in the waiting room.

That said, it may be worth trying to train your cat to get in the carrier on command. I know it's a weird thing to suggest, but operant conditioning works wonders, and it's not like your cat isn't in it for the food. Buy a large bag of treats, sit down with your cat, and give your cat treats, making a clicking noise each time you do so. When your cat looks at you expectantly when you make a clicking noise, you're ready to go. Take the carrier out and put it in the room. Each time the cat goes near it, make a clicking noise and give it a treat. Then up the ante: click and treat only when the cat goes towards the front of the carrier, then partially inside, then all the way inside for a second, then a bit longer, then with the door closed, etc. Once the cat's willing to hang out inside the carrier (feed it the treat through the bars), you'll need to reinforce this behavior by running drills, desensitizing it to its fear of the vet by just going for drives, etc. You want your cat, when presented with the carrier and your hopeful face, to think "Yes, there's a good chance this will be some bullshit, but at least I'll get paid."

(I can totally understand, though, if you just chuck your cat in a bag like Zwarte Piet and haul it off to the vet. It's what I've done in the past.)
posted by Coda at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

An alternate on the towel trick is draping the towel over your lap, then getting the cat on your lap. It's fairly easy at that point to throw the ends of the towel over the cat, and you've got your thighs as well as your hands to help position and hold the cat. (Make sure you're wearing jeans, though.)

My cat really hates being picked up, which is the larger issue when I'm trying to get her into the carrier. I've started picking her up randomly throughout the day, even though it doesn't thrill her, just so that she doesn't always assume that my coming at her with open arms means she's going to have to go in the carrier. It seems to be working; she's chilled out a great deal about my picking her up. It may be worth trying something similar with your cat, just so it's not always quite so much of a battle for you.
posted by occhiblu at 11:18 PM on September 6, 2006

Here's my method, though most of the points have been covered.

-Pick up cat when cat is sleeping, if possible
-Lower cat, rear end first, into carrier which is standing on end with the door at the top.
-If possible, have an accomplice who is in charge of managing cat limbs (e.g. unhooking paws from the doorframe of the carrier).

For choosing a carrier, the advice I've received is that a cat will be most comfortable in the smallest suitable carrier, as they feel cozy in small spaces. e.g. If your cat is 12 lbs and there's one carrier for 8 to 12 lbs and another for 10 to 15 lbs, the cat will be happier in the former.
posted by winston at 6:08 AM on September 7, 2006

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