“Wrapping your cat in a large bath towel is a great way to protect yourself from their claws and towel wrapping also prevents escapes and helps calm down a cat,” says Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist. She is also the author of Low Stress: Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modifications of Dogs and Cats. With more than 1,600 how-to photographs, this book is a valuable resource for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, professional pet sitters as well as pet owners.
Using towels can also benefit cats who tend to be anxious, fearful or aggressive when handled. After all, cats have flexible spines. They can easily and quickly reach around to grab you and bite and scratch if you attempt to scruff them by the neck.
In addition, cats can be more difficult than dogs to restrain because, in general, they receive less socialization and handling than dogs. Their evolutionary history as a prey species can also cause them to feel more vulnerable when restrained or scruffed.
Dr. Yin says it is vital to introduce the towel in a positive way. Your goal is to have the cat accept the use of being wrapped inside a large bath towel. So, for starters, never rush or force a cat into a towel. He may scream or even urinate or defecate out of pure panic. She offers these tips and benefits to towel-wrapping a cat:
• Place the cat on top of a towel on a flat surface and then open a can of food.
• Place the food on the towel so the cat has to lie or sit on the towel to eat his meal.
• Loosely wrap the towel over the cat’s back while he eats.
• Gently pet his back and let him walk away when he is done eating.
• Dangle a feather wand toy for him to swat and play with while on the towel if the cat is motivated by toys.
The goal is to have the cat develop a positive association with the towel. It is also important to be calm and not feel rushed or frustrated because the cat can read your emotions.
There are several different toweling-the-cat techniques, but two of the most effective and versatile are known as the half-burrito and the scarf wrap. Each towel technique permits access to the cat’s rear end, front legs and head – all while keeping him snug and calm.
Here is a step-by-step guide on the scarf wrap technique provided by Dr. Yin:
Step 1. Start with the cat several inches from the front edge of the towel and about a foot from one side.
Step 2. Wrap the short side around the cat’s neck snugly, like a scarf.
Step 3. Pull the entire short side of the towel over the cat so that the entire cat is covered except his face.
Step 4. Then pull the front edge forward. This is the first “scarf” portion of the wrap, which will go under the cat’s neck.
Step 5. Once the towel is wrapped all the way around, take the other side and pull it over the cat. Make it snug. Keep the towel tight by grabbing the top of it.
Seven Calming Tactics at Vet Clinics
For times when you need to bring your cat in to see a veterinarian, you can make the trip less stressful for the cat and you by following these tips:
• Build up a positive association with the pet carrier by keeping it open in the home and tossing in treats or a small toy for the cat to retrieve.
• Cover the carrier’s floor with a towel to encourage your cat to take naps in the carrier.
• Select a pet carrier that enables you to easily detach the top to remove the cat in the exam room.
• Choose clinics that treat only cats or that provide separate lobbies for dogs and cats or that allow you to bring the cat directly into an exam room upon arrival.
• Place a towel over the carrier housing the cat to block out visual distractions during the trip and in the clinic lobby.
• Place the towel on the exam table so the cat doesn’t have to feel the cold steel surface.
• Bring small, healthy treats or a feather wand toy to distract the cat when he is being examined.
By Sarah Zumhofe