MCFH: Feral Cats Learn to Go Into Their Cat Carriers

Show: My Cat From Hell season 9, episode 2
Episode Title: Mayday!  Mayday!

CATS: JACKSON & IVY

Jackson & Ivy

Jackson & Ivy

These two cats (both black & white) are 3-year old ferals adopted because they were “un-adoptable,” having been rescued at the age of 3 months – not quite early enough in their development to become accustomed to human presence and touch.  Jackson the cat has asthma.

GUARDIAN: JENNIFER

Jennifer

Jennifer

Jennifer volunteers at a local shelter, which is where she met Jackson & Ivy, and rescued them from death row (yes, Jackson is named after…Jackson!)  Her neighbor’s home experienced a fire about a year ago, which, combined with Jackson the cat’s asthma, made for traumatic situations that left both cats and humans even more anxious about interacting with each other.  To make matters worse, Jennifer is moving from Glendale, CA to Vancouver, BC in a month, and needs to get Jackson & Ivy to go with her - as calmly as possible - on that long car ride.

HOW BAD IS IT?

Jackson & Ivy won’t let Jennifer even pick them up, let alone allow themselves to be put into carriers.  This is not just troublesome, but dangerous, as Jennifer realized the night of her neighbor’s house fire.  That night, she was forced to evacuate her home, leaving Jackson & Ivy behind in the burning building.  Thankfully, the fire was put out before harm came to the cats.

ISSUES

  • cats will not go into their carriers
  • extremely long car ride and travel
Jackson, Ivy Carrier Training lg pic.png

PHYSICAL APPROACH

Moveable Base Camp.  To help the cats go into their carriers, Jackson had Jennifer begin feeding them first near the carriers (their Base Camp), then over the course of several days, in the carriers, and finally, in the carrier with the doors closed.  The key to this method was to go slowly and modify the cat’s environment based on their reaction to it.  For example, if you observe the cat keeping an anxious eye on the open carrier door while they're eating inside the carrier, this tell us that the next step is to desensitize the cat to the door.  You do this by moving the door back and forth just a little bit, a few times.  Doing this helps teach the cat that the door is nothing to be afraid of.  The next time, the cat will be less sensitive to the door, and you can get it closer to closed.  Patience and awareness is required here.

Jennifer did a remarkable job.  Using this method, she was eventually able to demonstrate that she could get Jackson & Ivy — two feral cats who wouldn’t even be picked up — to voluntarily walk into their carriers within 2 minutes flat.  Oh!  AND Jennifer could close the carrier doors in that time, too, with no issues.

Used cat litter: "very valuable" (!) as a scent soaker.

Used cat litter: "very valuable" (!) as a scent soaker.

Scent Soakers. To ease the cats into their travels and new home, Jackson had Jennifer collect ‘scent soakers’ — their beds, blankets, toys, and even used cat litter (!) — to employ as territorial markers.  Cats use scent to mark their territory.  This is why they rub their faces on things; they’re marking their scent on it, which gives them a sense of ownership, and therefore confidence and calmness.  You can help cats ‘claim’ a new home as territory, and therefore make them at ease in it, by moving their ‘scent soakers’ into the new place before putting the cats into it.  

EMOTIONAL APPROACH

Meditation.  Jackson had Jennifer sit down in silence, by herself, for 5 minutes before interacting with her cats.  This was both a physical and emotional task intended to help Jennifer approach her cats with calmness and grounded energy, instead of anxiety and worry.  We all go through traumatic experiences in life, and how we respond afterwards can either make things emotionally better or worse.  It was helpful for Jennifer to realize that she could hit the pause button on where she placed her focus, so that her history with the cats didn’t negatively impact their future.

HOLISTIC APPROACH & INSIDE INFO FROM JACKSON

IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE, JACKSON ALSO USED JACKSON GALAXY HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS FOR ANIMALS:

TRAUMA FREE

Says Jackson: “We started with Trauma Free with Jackson & Ivy.  Because they were feral to begin with, but then they went through the shelter system, and they were really scared about their life circumstances, I think, trying to be ‘made into’ house cats.  You could’ve used Feral Flower Formula as well, but with these guys I went with Trauma Free first.  Trauma Free is one of those…to sort of clean the emotional and auric palette, and then from there you can use other things.”

STRESS STOPPER

Jackson says: “For these guys, Stress Stopper was a big deal because they were very stressed at all times.”

EASY TRAVELER & CHANGING TIMES

Easy Traveler was for that big long trip that these guys had to take driving all the way to Canada.  Jennifer used Easy Traveler in the car, spraying down the car, the carriers.  Spraying Easy Traveler and applying Stress Stopper consistently throughout the trip was a key.  And when they got to the house, Changing Times to help them get settled in.  So these guys had a lot of formulas going on!  Not an uncommon thing for the story of many rescue cats.”