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Include Pets in Your Emergency Readiness Plans

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Disaster can strike at any moment, and it’s important to develop an emergency evacuation plan and kit in case of flood, fire, tornado, hurricane or other disasters for you and your family. As you prepare your emergency plans, don’t forget to include your furry felines as well! It’s important to have a location planned out and a disaster preparedness kit ready to go in the event of an emergency to keep your family and furry friends safe.

Due to local and state regulations, evacuation shelters often cannot take pets when families in the surrounding area are evacuated from their homes, with the exception of service animals. Make sure to have a list with phone numbers and directions of any shelters that will accept pets during emergencies, any surrounding hotels that will house pets, any family members or friends outside the area that would be willing to house you and your pets, and any boarding facilities.  Frequently when emergency shelters do allow pets, they need to be housed in a crate, so you’ll want to be sure to have a crate large enough to fit your cat, a litter box, and food/water.

Next, you’ll want to have a disaster preparedness kit for your pets. The kit should include the following items stored in waterproof pouches or bags:

  • Prepared list of pet friendly evacuation locations with phone numbers and directions
  • Complete medical and vaccination records, including current microchip numbers (if applicable)
  • Any medications that your cat is taking and a prescription from your veterinarian in case your evacuation goes on longer than anticipated (including any prescription diets)
  • A basic pet first-aid kit available from the Red Cross or you can create your own. Make sure it includes the following items as recommended by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States: latex gloves, gauze sponges, roll of gauze, elastic cling bandage, material to make a split, adhesive tape, sterile pads, small scissors, tweezers, grooming clipper or safety razor, magnifying glass, nylon leash, towel, muzzle, emergency blanket, water-based sterile lubricant, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes, insect sting stop pads, cotton tipped swabs, instant cold pack, Epsom salt, baby dose syringe or eye dropper, sterile eye lubricant, sterile saline wash, safety pins, tongue depressor, children’s Benedryl with dosing instructions from your veterinarian, glucose syrup or caro syrup, styptic powder, plastic card to scrape away stingers, petroleum jelly, penlight with batteries, clean cloth, needle nose pliers, and a thermometer
  • With your first aid kit, it’s a good idea to have the book, Pet First Aid, by Barbara Mammato, DVM, MPH to let you know how to handle certain emergency situations. The book is endorsed by the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States
  • Litter box, litter box scoop, bags to dispose of used litter, food and water dishes, bedding
  • Enough food, water, and litter to last for 10 days
  • 1 or 2 toys to help keep your pet comfortable
  • Recent photo of your cat and the microchip number in the event he/she becomes lost
  • For cats, Feliway spray or wipes is a great idea. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that mimics a cat’s natural facial pheromone used to mark their territory.  By spraying or wiping down their carriers or crates, you can help decrease their stress level and make them more comfortable.
  • Sturdy Carrier or Crate and/or leash/harness

One of the biggest concerns when evacuating with your pet or in an emergency disaster situation is the risk of them escaping. Even when you are fully prepared, evacuation is still a stressful and uncertain process for your cat. The best prevention against losing your cat is a microchip and a break-away collar with tag.  Make sure to keep an updated photo of your cat and the phone number for the microchip company so you can report your cat missing as soon as it happens.

Make sure that each side of your house, on a window or door, is a sticker stating how many pets and what type are in your home and a contact number to be reached at if needed. This can be lifesaving information during an evacuation, or even if there is a house fire when you are not home. If you evacuate your home with your pets, make sure to put a sticker or identifying label on your front door and any ground level windows that says “EVACUATED”, which indicates to rescuers that you and your pet are already safe.

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Acupuncture Aids Many Cat Ailments

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

In efforts to continue our theme of helping your cat “Live Beyond 9 Lives,”  just like laser therapy, acupuncture can be a great non-invasive addition to your cat’s health care plan. By incorporating eastern and western medicines, you can help your cat be more comfortable and increase the quality of years.  We are proud to offer acupuncture services at Just Cats Clinic starting in July.

Acupuncture can be useful on its own or as incorporated into your cat’s overall treatment plan. Your vet might suggest it in conjunction with long-term pain, arthritis, asthma, allergies, chronic kidney disease and liver problems. Or it can be useful for acute problems like a sprain or an isolated gastrointestinal issue.  As it does with humans, acupuncture can also ease the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy in cats that require cancer treatments. For our aging feline friends, acupuncture can provide comfort and relief from pain and stiffness, increasing the quality of life and even their energy level.

So, how exactly does acupuncture work?

An acupuncturist uses tiny needles to stimulate healing by normalizing nerve function and circulation. Those needles are inserted into various pressure points on your cat’s body, depending on the particular ailment. Though the word “needles” may send a shiver down your spine, acupuncture is actually a painless experience for your cat. When a properly trained acupuncturist inserts the needles, no pain signals are sent to the brain. Sometimes the process is so relaxing that your cat will even fall asleep during the treatment.

Since acupuncture stimulates the nerves and circulation, your cat might be more energetic, social and relaxed after just one to two sessions or sometimes patients feel sleepy and relaxed afterwards. For acute issues, even one to two sessions may be helpful and all that is needed. Conversely, cats that are older or suffering from more chronic ailments might need more continuous treatments for maximum benefits, sometimes even for the rest of their lives to help minimize any discomfort or pain they may have.

Each acupuncture session can last up to 30 minutes, and you can be present during the entire appointment. The number and frequency of the treatment sessions depend, of course, on your cat’s condition and should be discussed with the veterinarian.

When looking for a veterinary acupuncturist, always make sure they are a licensed veterinarian and that they have had formal training in veterinary acupuncture. While acupuncture is incredibly safe, it must be done by a practitioner that has completed training to ensure it’s being done correctly.

For more information about veterinary acupuncture, its benefits, or to find a certified practictioner near you, visit The Chi Institute’s website or the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society.

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How Laser Therapy Can Help Cats

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Laser therapy can be a fantastic non-invasive addition to your cat’s health care routine. Useful in treating a multitude of ailments, laser therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation, and even increase the speed of healing. So what exactly is the laser and how does it work?

One of the most common lasers used in veterinary medicine is the Class IV laser, which uses a beam of laser light to penetrate tissue deeply without damaging it. The laser energy induces a biological response in certain cells leading to increased healing, and decreased pain and inflammation.

Typically, your veterinarian will recommend laser therapy in addition to conventional treatments such as medication or surgery, but certain ailments can be treated exclusively with the laser. Lasers are commonly utilized after surgery to help with surgical site healing, after dental procedures to help gum inflammation, and on any wounds.

The non-invasive nature of laser therapy makes it a great addition to your cat’s healthcare needs, especially cats suffering from degenerative joint disease, sinusitis, and a variety of dermatological issues, including allergies and infections.

Unlike more conventional therapies that can cause stress for your cat, laser treatment is generally a relaxing experience. The light is delivered through a noninvasive hand piece that is applied to the affected area. Your cat simply feels gentle warm pressure and treatments take just a few minutes. The only potential stress is that your vet will apply a face shield gently over your cat’s eyes to protect them during the treatment session. Most cats do very well with the face shield as it’s just held over their eyes while the laser is in use.

The length of each treatment is relatively quick and can vary from about two to eight minutes. Within 12 to 24 hours of a laser treatment, many cats start feeling a little less pain and enjoy increased mobility. A laser therapy course usually involves multiple sessions a week for several weeks. For more acute illnesses, a shorter program with more frequent treatments is better. Conversely, chronic conditions normally require less frequent treatments over a longer period of time.

Make sure to talk to your vet about whether laser therapy is the right choice for your cat.

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Begging For Scraps? Here’s What’s Safe To Feed Kitty

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Human food is generally not meant for feline consumption. As a general rule, the food we eat lacks the specific nutrients in premium cat food that cats need for a healthy life. But human food tastes good to our kitties, and they can quickly develop a liking for it and lose their appetite for cat food.

For that reason, once you feed them the first time, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a cat who acts cute and begs for scraps the minute you go into the kitchen. Just in case that happens, it pays to know ahead of time which foods are ok for your kitty to eat.

The following foods are generally considered safe for cats:

Beef, chicken, turkey:

Given that cats are carnivores, cooked scraps of meat are generally pretty safe for your cat to eat. And if your cat steals an uncooked piece, that is not a big problem either. The feline digestive system is designed to process meat, so salmonella is usually not an issue.

The biggest threat to cats is choking on small bones, so make sure that any meat you feed your cat is boneless. Also ensure that the meat doesn’t have any seasonings that are dangerous to cats, such as garlic, onion, or salt.

Fish:

As with meats, cats generally like fish, and an occasional small piece of tuna as a snack is fine. But be careful about giving your kitty too much. Some species, such as tuna, swordfish and salmon, may contain higher levels of mercury that can deplete the cat’s vitamin E supply. Cod, halibut and flounder are generally safer.

Regardless of which type of fish you give your cat, always make sure that it is cooked, smoked or grilled. Uncooked, oily fish can break down thiamine in your cat’s body, and uncooked fresh water fish might carry a tapeworm.

Eggs:

Cats can safely eat eggs, as long as they are well-cooked and unseasoned.

Vegetables:

Even though cats are carnivorous, they do sometimes consume vegetables to help their digestion. Be careful, though, as onions, garlic or peppers can be dangerous. Vegetables that cats can safely enjoy include baked carrots, steamed asparagus or broccoli, green beans, winter squash, corn and chopped greens. Wash the vegetables well and avoid feeding your feline something that it cannot digest, such as raw carrots.

Dairy products:

Some cats like milk, cheese or yogurt, and they are a good source of protein. But many of our furry friends become lactose-intolerant as they mature into adulthood. For those cats, dairy products can cause diarrhea.

But if your cat likes and tolerates dairy, it is perfectly safe to give your kitty some milk, cheese or yogurt as a snack.

For more information about human foods that are toxic to cats please visit this fact sheet on the ASPCA website.

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Beyond Nine Lives: Taking Heartworm Precautions

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Heartworm is a parasitic disease that can be deadly to cats. Though it occurs more frequently in dogs, you should take precautions to ensure that it does not develop in your cat.

The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. When an insect carrying heartworm bites your cat, the parasites’ larvae pass into your cat’s bloodstream. If the cat is not on preventative medication, the larvae then develop into worms that can live in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. This process usually takes about eight months.

It is a common misperception that only outdoor cats are at risk of contracting heartworm. Any cat can get the parasite if bitten by an infected mosquito, and indoor cats in areas with mosquitoes are no safer than outdoor cats.

Unfortunately, there are no clinical signs that clearly indicate that your cat has heartworm disease. A cat with heartworm might start coughing suddenly and breathing more rapidly. However, these can also be signs of other diseases such as asthma or respiratory infections. The following table lists both acute and chronic clinical signs of heartworm, but please remember that these may also be indicators of other diseases.

Acute clinical signs: collapse, dyspnea, convulsions, diarrhea/vomiting, blindness, tachycardia (faster than normal heart rate while resting), loss of consciousness and sudden death.

Chronic clinical signs: coughing, vomiting, dyspnea, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss and pleural effusion resulting from fluid accumulation.

Whether those turn out to be signs of heartworm or not, please seek immediate medical attention if your cat shows any of these symptoms. Your vet will likely run blood tests to determine if the parasite is present, but many of these tests are not accurate and will not completely rule out the diagnosis.

If heartworms are present, there is unfortunately no cure and treatment can be difficult. Your vet will treat the symptoms, but unfortunately there is a risk your cat could die of pulmonary failure during the worm’s lifespan.

So what’s the good news in all of this? Preventing heartworm disease is extremely easy and helps to ensure your cat stays happy and healthy. Many heartworm preventatives are simple topical medications applied once monthly to the back of your cat’s neck. While there are a variety of heartworm preventatives on the market, they aren’t all effective or safe.

Always ask your vet about the different options available for your cat. Also by buying the product directly from your vet’s office, many manufacturers offer a guarantee and back their product 100 percent. Some will even pay for your cat’s treatment should they contract heartworms while on the preventative, or will even refund your money if your cat ends up having an allergy or sensitivity to the preventative.

For more information, please visit the Feline Health Library on our website: www.justcatsclinic.com.

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When Your Cat ‘Misses’ The Litter Box

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Even though we love our cats very much, we may not like every single thing they do. There are definitely some feline behaviors we can live without! Scratching our furniture, shedding on our black pants and coughing up hairballs are a few habits we’d just as soon not have to deal with.

One of the most frustrating, however, is our feline friends’ occasional tendency to urinate outside the litter box. When our cats, whose bathroom habits are normally quite fastidious, start finding new places to use as a litter box, it can cause an unsightly mess and leave the entire house reeking. And making matters worse is the fact that once a cat starts urinating in a particular corner, on a living room sofa, or on a piece of its owner’s clothing, it will probably continue to do so for a long time.

Urinating outside the litter box can be due to a variety of issues, some more serious than others. If you notice that your cat is doing it, it is critical that you address the situation immediately — both for your cat’s health and the integrity of your carpets and furniture.

Any time your cat starts urinating outside the litter box consult your vet immediately.

Your vet might suggest that you make sure that your cat’s litter box is clean. Some cats will urinate in inappropriate places if they find their litter too dirty. Switching to new litter can also lead to urinating outside the box if your cat doesn’t like the change.

If resolving the litter box situation doesn’t halt the inappropriate urination, the next thing to look for is stress. Sometimes, cats will begin urinating outside the litter box when they feel insecure, when there is a new cat in the house, when you’ve started using a new cleaning agent or when there is a new human addition to the family. The point of urinating outside the box can vary, depending on whether they are trying to mark their territories or signal their displeasure to you, but the results are the same.

If both the litter box’s condition and stressors can be ruled out, then there are a variety of infections and diseases that can cause inappropriate urination. Cats can’t tell you if it hurts to urinate and they might be trying to alert you to that fact. The causes may include:

  • Crystals in the urine
  • Bladder stones
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary track infection
  • Idiopathic cystitis

Your vet will check your cat’s blood work, urine and x-rays to determine if any of these issues could be causing the urination problems. If they are, the vet will prescribe the appropriate course of action.

Regardless of the cause, the longer this has gone on it can be challenging to retrain your cat to use the litter box once the problem has been resolved. Be sure to talk with your vet about strategies get your feline friend back into the box.

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What You Need To Know About Cats and Kidney Disease

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Kidney disease, kidney failure or chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a renal disease in which a cat’s kidneys progressively shut down. Just as in the case of humans, cats often develop CKD as part of the aging process. Compared to us, however, cats are much more likely to get the disease. CKD will develop in 10 percent of cats older than ten and 30 percent of cats older than 15. Younger cats can also get CKD, but in those cases, the illness generally is caused by exposure to toxins.

CKD can be a very difficult disease to treat because it is usually diagnosed only after it has progressed significantly. It cannot even be detected until a cat has lost more than 65 percent of their kidney function. It is hard to know when this happens, because the cat will often not even display any symptoms until the disease’s later stages.  Moreover, the symptoms of CKD, if displayed, may also indicate a completely separate infection.

If you suspect that your cat may have CKD, ask your vet to run a a blood chemistry panel and a urine test. The latter measures the concentration of the urine, which usually decreases as kidney functions are lost. It is important to conduct additional tests to rule out the aforementioned infections.

After their cat has been diagnosed, people usually want to know how bad it is and how the disease can be treated. The answer to both depends on the stage of the disease.

Stage 1: The creatinine level in the blood test is lower than 1.6, which means that less than 66 percent of kidney functions have been lost. At this stage, most vets suggest switching the cat to a more kidney-friendly prescription diet that is lower in processed protein.

Stage 2: The creatinine level is between 1.6 and 2.8, which means that 66 to 75 percent of kidney functions have been lost. At this stage, your vet might also recommend switching to a more kidney-friendly prescription diet if you have not already done so. He or she will probably also recommend a follow-up blood test in six months.

Stage 3: The creatinine level is between 2.9 and 5.0, which means that 76 to 90 percent of kidney functions have been lost. At this stage, your vet might suggest subcutaneous fluid administration to combat dehydration and ease the burden on your cat’s kidneys. You can give the fluids at home using a very simple apparatus.

Stage 4: The creatinine level is higher than 5.0, which means that 90 percent of kidney functions have been lost. At this stage, your cat may be suffering quite a bit, so it is important to keep your feline friend as comfortable as possible. Your cat may lose its appetite, but encouraging or helping them to eat can keep their strength up. At that point, your vet might recommend feeding them whatever they like to eat, regardless of the effect on its kidney. Your vet might also recommend increasing the frequency of the subcutaneous fluids.

Though CKD is certainly a scary disease, do not despair if you learn that your cat has it. Talk to your vet about your concerns. Many vets are willing to try different treatments and approaches to ensure that the needs of your feline friend are met. And always remember to “treat the cat, not the numbers.” Your cat’s lab work might indicate that the CKD has progressed to the later stages, but if your cat still appears healthy, that’s what matters. Don’t give up just because the numbers are bad!

For more comprehensive information, please visit: www.felinecrf.org.

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Beware: People Food and Drugs Can Harm Your Cats

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

There are many common foods, household products and medications that are perfectly safe for humans but potentially deadly to felines. If ingested, a lot of things could make your cat very sick or even kill your furry companion. And because cats are so small, even the tiniest amounts can be harmful.

Below is a short list of things around the house to keep your cat out of. It is not comprehensive, though, so please consult the American Society for the Protection of Animals website for more information. If you have any doubts about a particular substance, you can also call Poison Control.

Foods: Though it can be tempting to do, it is generally not a good idea to give your cat food from your own table. Several common ingredients in our dishes can be harmful if your cat should ingest them. For example, onions, garlic, artificial and sugar-free sweeteners, yeast and alcohol are all toxic to cats. Other foods to keep away from your felines include grapes, avocados, coffee and tea.

The one to really watch out for, though, is chocolate. Though all varieties are toxic, the darker chocolates are generally more harmful. And because it contains methylzanthine, baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous of all.

Household products: Cats are beloved for their curiosity, but as the old saying goes, that can get them into trouble. Especially when they go sniffing in places where dangerous chemicals are stored. Household cleaning agents such as laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, rust remover and bleach can cause excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting and burns inside the mouth and esophagus if they are ingested by your cat. Be sure to store these products in an inaccessible place.

Many gardening and lawn care products can also be toxic to felines. Poisons designed to kill insects, weeds or rodents are very dangerous to your cats as well. Cocoa mulch and fertilizers should also be kept out of reach. And though not a gardening product, antifreeze is particularly deadly, so please take care that your cat cannot get into a bottle of it.

Medications: It should not be surprising that medications intended for humans are not generally good for cats. Here is a short list of things that cats should not consume:

  • Over-the-counter painkillers (Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Tylenol)
  • Antidepressants (Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)
  • ADD/ADHD medications (Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
  • Sleep aids (Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
  • Birth control pills (Estrogen, Estradiol, Progesterone)
  • ACE inhibitors (Zestril, Altace)
  • Beta blockers (Tenormin, Torol, Coreg)
  • Thyroid hormones (Armour, dessicated thyroid, Synthroid)
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)

If you suspect that your cat has ingested any of the above, please call your vet or Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

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How To Get Your Cat To The Vet

Just Cats Clinic

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Routine veterinary exams are an essential part of keeping your cat healthy. However, these visits can be stressful for both of you. And that stress often starts before you have even left home.

For example, the struggle to get your feline into the carrier can start the whole process off on the wrong foot. Making that smoother can help make the entire veterinary visit is easier.

Here are some tips on how to make the carrier a more comfortable place and to reduce the stress of going to the vet:

Understand your cat’s behavior:

Recognize that riding in the car, waiting in the clinic and being handled by unfamiliar people can make your cat anxious. Cats are territorial animals, so taking them from familiar surroundings can make them uneasy.

Stay calm. Cats feed off your emotions. The calmer you are, the calmer your cat will be.

Reward good behavior. Unlike some animals, cats do not respond well to punishments or force. Instead of yelling if your cat is uncooperative, use treats to encourage your cat when it does well. For example, if your cat stays calm and lets the vet handle it during the examination, give something the cat likes, such as food, play or affection. Be persistent and reward each time, so that a strong connection forms in the cat’s mind.

Make the carrier a comfortable place:

Help your cat learn to like the carrier during less stressful times. One way to do this is to encourage your feline to go into the carrier voluntarily by making it a more inviting place. Leave it in a place at home where your cat spends time. Place something soft with your scent on it inside the carrier to help your feline friend feel more secure. Entice the cat to enter by leaving treats or toys inside the carrier. It may take several attempts before your feline gets past its natural wariness, but be patient and always reward good behavior.

Don’t force an unwilling cat into the carrier:

If you have to take the cat to the vet immediately, and it is not yet comfortable with the carrier, do not force your feline friend into it. Instead, try the following:

Spray the inside of the carrier with a synthetic “feel-good” hormone at least 30 minutes before departure.

Put the carrier in a small room with few hiding places. Bring the cat in, close the door and move slowly towards it. Do not chase your feline, but instead, encourage it with treats and toys.

Find gentle ways to put the cat in the carrier, if it is still unwilling to enter. If the carrier opens on top, gently place the feline in through that opening. If the top half of the carrier can be removed, take that off, put the cat in the bottom half, and reassemble the carrier.

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