Emergency Preparedness for Kitties: Carrier Edition

29/06/2012

As I’m sure most of you know, a good chunk of the state of Colorado is on fire right now.  People are having to evacuate themselves and their pets all over the place.  While Denver, where I live, is not being threatened by the fires, way too many residential areas are.  Hundreds of homes have been destroyed.  When I was in college, our college town had a close call with a wildfire (though not as close as that same town had this year, where more than 200 homes were destroyed), and that made me realize the importance of being prepared.  At the time, I didn’t even have a proper carrier for my cat, nor did my roommate for her cat.  I thought at the time, “Deidre doesn’t even like being in a carrier (I had borrowed one before).”  Now, I make sure to have a carrier for each of my three kitties.

Deidre is MUCH HAPPIER with a bag-type carrier than a crate.

Even if your kitties don’t like being in a carrier, it’s important to have one for emergencies.  If ever there was a tornado or a wildfire that DID threaten my neighborhood and I had to evacuate, I would feel better knowing I could keep track of my kitties without worrying about them running off and/or getting hurt.  Especially since I don’t own a car!  But there are things you can do to make the carrier experience better for your less-than-thrilled feline friends.

Deidre, for one, HATED the crate-type carriers.  She would cry in them, and even got sick once or twice.  This is why in college we got into the habit of letting her ride in the back window of the car (I have a theory that she maybe gets motion sickness like I do: if I can look out a window, I’m generally fine).  Even though she never threatened the driver’s feet or caused a ruckus in the car and was happier doing this, it wouldn’t have been safe if we had gotten into an accident.  We of course were college kids, and like all underdeveloped-brain young adults, thought we were invincible, and didn’t think about that.  Thank God nothing happened!

She now has a bag-type carrier, pictured above.  She actually doesn’t seem to mind it at all!  She doesn’t cry in it; she sits calmly and goes along for the ride.  The first time I put her in it, I was shocked it made such a difference.  So if your kitty hates their current carrier, try switching styles!

Please note the plethora of Yuan hair

Another tactic to help your kitties become accustomed to their carriers is to leave them out all the time as cat hangout spots.  To the right is Yuan’s crate, with the lid off (it’s underneath).  This is the same crate that was the one Deidre hated, and it was actually the crate we brought my first cat, Butterscotch, to Colorado from New Jersey in back in 1990.  It’s seen it’s fair share of cats!  I’ve got it lined with a pillow and blanket my grandmother made for my kitties a few years ago (you can tell Yuan approves of them by the amount of hair present).  It’s a regularly used bed now.  If I have to take him somewhere, it’s familiar and has his calm, sleeping-shedding smells all over it (yes, I do wash the pillow and blanket periodically).

So I don’t lose any parts to the carrier if I need them in a flash, I’ve got the lid underneath, with the door and the nuts and bolts to put it together stashed underneath (see below pic).  Still quickly accessible in a hurry, but a cozy and beloved bed in the meantime.  Win-win!

It assembles pretty quickly

Finally, there’s Maggie’s crate.  Oh, my Maggie Magnificat.  What a trial we used to go through to get her in a carrier.  She used to think carriers were the portals to hell, based on how she acted.  She would scream, hiss, growl, scratch, bite, and – her pièce de résistance – pee and poop on me, in order to try and avoid the terror that was the carrier.  I tried both the crate that is now Yuan’s and the bag that is now Deidre’s.  I would put treats inside.  Tuna.  Sardines!  She wasn’t having any of it.  She would hide.  She would attach herself to the carpet under the papasan like she had been super glued there.  Once, my mother (who was giving me a ride to the vet) held the crate-that-is-now-Yuan’s at an angle so gravity might help us get her inside, and I, bleeding and covered in pee, unceremoniously pushed her in by her butt.  Poor Maggie.  Poor me!

And just when I thought my only hope was one of those cat strollers (which would be handy on the bus, but another large thing to store in the apartment, and not cheap), I found The Most Perfect Maggie Crate Ever:

*enter angels singing from on high here*

It may be a little hard to tell in that photo as I have the front door taken off and sitting on top, but it has a second door *on the top*.  Miraculous!  I literally put Maggie down – in the crate.  If she pees, it goes in the crate instead of on my pants (she’s gotten better about that, but it still happens).  I don’t have to fight to get her in there like it’s an epic battle.  I literally just plunk her in – it takes about a minute, as opposed to 30 (really – I’d have to start fighting her 30 minutes before we had to leave for the vet to get her in and not miss our appointment).

BUT – most amazing thing of all – I left it out, like I do Yuan’s, with the door off (as pictured), so that she wouldn’t feel “trapped” if it swung shut, in the hopes she might check it out on her own.  For months she wouldn’t go near it.  But now that she’s being all brave explorer kitty, she… SLEEPS IN IT.

Willingly.

Of her own accord.

And when there’s a stranger in the apartment that she doesn’t want to deal with – she chills out in her crate.  When the vacuum is on, she takes cover in her crate.  It’s become a safe space!

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

It too has a cat mat/blanket/bed in it that has her scent all over it, which helps.  But considering every indication from Maggie over the years has been that she’s claustrophobic, I am over the moon that she actually feels safe in her crate.  It’s no longer the portal to hell – it’s Someplace The Vacuum Can’t Reach!  ^_^

Some people ask me why I have a carrier for each cat – they often ask if I take all three to the vet at the same time.  Even if they were all perfectly happy with the same carrier, I would still be sure to have three.  You never know when an emergency might happen, and it’s important to be able to take care of your fuzzy family!  Be sure that your carrier is big enough for your cat (you don’t want them too cramped in there, and they do have weight limits as well), and something you can manage to heft with your kitty inside (there are some with wheels, much like suitcases, for those that can’t lift certain weights).  And get one for each cat!

The fires being all over the news has reminded me that I still haven’t accomplished one of those “been meaning to” tasks: creating a to-go emergency kit with food, water, first aid, and the like.  I’ll be working on that this week and will write about what to add for your kitties soon.  Stay safe!

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