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Not only horses may have loading problems

Although being primarily focused on horses, I decided to dedicate this article to cats. Why? Because I have literally plenty of them! Currently, we have five rescue cats at home and about four or five half-feral cats (all of them already castrated) around the house where we have moved to. I don’t consider myself an expert on cat behaviour and medicine, but yes, I am definitely a cat person!

A little bit more than six years ago, my partner and I rescued a half-feral kitty. I named her Agnes (she’s on the image above). About four years ago, I took home Sigmund, an abandoned injured kitten who had been brought to the clinic where I worked. Due to his injuries, his left front leg had to be amputated. Luckily, he had recovered well. Then, approximately two and a half years ago, five kittens were found alongside the road and brought to my friend’s rescue centre. I was called there just to check them if they are OK. One of them didn’t want her examination to get finished and stuck to my jacket with her tiny claws. Guess what? …yes, and her name is Maya.

(Maya and Sigmund hugging.)

Thanks to them, I found out what great personalities cats are. I started to raise awareness about healthcare and castration of stable cats.

As if it were not enough, in summer I found two kittens alongside the road on my way back home. Two weeks after, one of my clients called me that his cat died and left three kittens approximately 10 to 14 days old…  So I became a genuine cat foster mum! Fortunately, I manage to rehome three of them. But two little guys (from the left on the picture below) would most probably stay with us.

(Three rescue kittens with their auntie Vera the border collie.)

Anyway… What I want to say is, that many cats (and I don’t mean only the feral ones) still don’t receive appropriate healthcare because it is a big problem to take them to the vet.

Cats don’t like vets as well

Dealing with loading problems and vet-related unwanted behaviour of an animal is not limited to horse owners, of course. From the equine vet’s point of view, it is sometimes easier to handle a frightened horse than an angry cat.

Cats got usually very stressed when caught, put into a crate and transported to the vet. Thus when coming in the vet’s office, their stress hormones level is high above the normal value already. (See this mechanism in horses.) This, of course, affects the further handling and the next owner’s attempt to catch the cat and put her into a crate.

(Easy-to-load Sigmund.)


Positive healthcare

Believe it or not, cats can be patient and attentive learners when the reward-based training is step-by-step introduced to them. According to my personal experience, I have to say that cats are at least as willing to be trained as horses, if not even more. I’d like to demonstrate this through the short videos from the initial session with the kittens. Such a small amount of training can make a big difference later.

Think about adding a little bit of force-free medical training next time when playing with your cat.

1. Pairing the tarp with food

The youngsters are naturally curious so the kittens almost immediately started to explore the tarp. This behaviour was marked by the clicker and rewarded with adding the treats.

2. Moving the tarp into the crate

Once the kittens got the idea of receiving food when staying on the tarp, the tarp was moved to the crate. To break this in smaller steps, I opened the crate and used only the bottom part of it.

3. Going into the crate

And finally… 😉

First, the kittens were rewarded for going into the crate and then for calmly staying inside. The next step will be closing the crate and then lifting it. But it will be the matter of some of the following sessions. Even if cats can hold their concentration for quite a long time, I suggest making the sessions short. When you slow down, you’ll go faster. 🙂


And here comes my first Christmas wish:

Please, don’t forget about the stable cats!

  • Feed
  • Care
  • Deworm
  • Vaccinate
  • Spay/neuter

(Agnes loves Christmas.)


Declaration: Not a single article on this blog was written without a cat supervising it!

"Hello! My name is Katerina, I am the equine veterinarian interested in professional and sofisticated animal handling through applied learning theory. I help the horses and their humans go through the medical care in easier, less stressful, more ethical and safer way." Read more >