Teach Your Cat to Love the Carrier in Six Steps
Your cat's carrier is an essential part of her life. Whether you're taking her for a vet visit, traveling to visit your family or friends, or evacuating in an emergency, your pet needs to learn to accept this form of transport. With the right carrier and a few simple steps, your kitty can learn to love her carrier.
Cat carriers come in every style from disposable cardboard boxes to designer purses, and your choice of carrier can make or break your cat's relationship with this vital safety device. The best all-purpose choice is a medium-sized (large enough to fit one cat comfortably) plastic box with a handle and openings in the front and the top. These can be found at pet stores and online pet supply outlets.
Here are six steps for best results with cat and carrier:
Step 1 - To get your cat used to the carrier, start by making it a part of her ordinary life. Leave the carrier in the living room, backed up against a wall, with the door propped open.
Step 2 - Put a small blanket or comfortable pillow in the bottom, and toss in a catnip toy and one or two of her favorite treats.
Step 3 - Let her explore the carrier at her leisure: no stress, no drama. For extra de-stressing power, spray a little bit of Feliway Comfort Zone, a synthetic "happy cat" pheromone, inside.
Step 4 - The next step is to get your feline used to doing different things in the carrier. Close the door while she's inside and leave the room for a few minutes. When you return, prop the carrier door open again. The goal here is to make your cat feel that the carrier is not a trap. Do this several times over the course of a week or so.
Step 5 - Once she's used to that, close the door while she's inside and walk around the house with the carrier. Afterward, set it down, open the door, and give her a treat.
Step 6 - Once you've gotten your cat used to her carrier, it's time to take her for a ride. Close the carrier door while your kitten is inside and take her for a short drive. Even a trip around the block will do. Repeat this at random intervals over the next week or so. The idea behind this is to help your cat understand that being in the carrier, in the car, does not necessarily mean she's going to the vet.
With the right carrier and a low-key, drama-free introduction, you'll have a pet who will love--or at least, accept--the carrier.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
Getting a Cat Into a Carrier
We put our cat's food bowl inside the carrier. Also, include a towel you have used on your wet hair. They like the scent of their humans.
~Christina W., owner of Siamese mix
I Prefer a Softshell Carrier
My carriers are the soft side kind like a duffel bag. My cats cannot stand up in theirs nor do they need to. But they can turn around and are comfortable. I believe that the less extra space the better so that they will lie down and relax while in the car and they will feel more secure during the trip and at the vet inside their carrier. Mine use theirs all of the time to hang out and take naps when I leave one open in the house. I also use the seat belt looped through the handles to keep mine safe in the car on the way to the vet.
~Sandy N., owner of Persian
Getting Kitty Used to the Carrier for Car Travel
Leave the carrier out in your house with the door open. If she sees that the carrier can be a "safe" place your cat will do better. You can try using some Rescue Remedy for her (you put some drops in their water dish). Also spraying some in the carrier (with the cat out of it) and also in the car may help as well. Tranquilizers often have the opposite effect on cats. You can also try getting her more comfortable with going into her carrier by placing a favorite treat, or wet food inside it and let her eat it at her leisure. Don't lock her up inside it when you feed the food/treats though.
As far as carriers, I used a small dog/large cat kennel for mine. Some cats like more room and some like a smaller space. They should have room to turn around. It is also best to not feed/water your cat right before leaving. Also, see if she responds better to being on one side of the car or the other. It sounds crazy, but my cat does not cry as much when he cannot see me vs. when he can.
~Ellie C., owner of Domestic Shorthair
Thanks, I Needed That!
The feral kitten I adopted needs carrier conditioning. The only way I could catch her was to "bait" the carrier, and when she went in to eat, I closed her in. She was so frantic that she fought the door, and her little face was all bloodied. That was almost two years ago. She has adjusted to indoor life, and is a sweet darling, but I will use the six steps in trying to condition her to the carrier. I still cry when I think of her poor bloodied little face.
~Doris B., owner of a Domestic Shorthair cat
Cover them up so they calm down
When feral cats are trapped in live traps for Trap-Neuter-Release programs, throwing an old sheet over the trap will almost always keep the cat calm. I've watched many ferals miraculously just stop trying to get out the minute they are covered.
So If I have a cat who cries a lot in the car, I put a sheet over the carrier and it does help. It doesn't work quite as well as with ferals because your own cat knows perfectly well that a moving car probably means a visit to the vet, but it does keep them calmer.
~Pam M., owner of several domestic shorthairs
This Can Be a Lifesaver
If an emergency of any kind happens and you need to put kitty in carrier immediately, this information can save a life or two! I keep both carriers propped open too, for Big Bad Baby Twinkle and Sweet Cee Cee. I toss treats in them, and BBBT has even taken to sitting inside her carrier staring at me. She thinks it's a game- good for her!
~BBBT and Cee Cee's Meowmie, owner of two cats