Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

cat_carrierTypically, cats are a bit snobbish about their cat carriers and tend to not care for them unless they have been properly introduced. That is a bad thing to discover when you suddenly find yourself in an emergency situation in which your little buddy needs to be transported quickly and safely.

I think we can all agree that human skin is no match for a determined feline with sharp teeth and claws. Nor do we seem to have the fast-twitch muscle capacity to hold a writhing little ball of spit and fur.

How to Train a Cat to Accept the Pet Carrier

To train your cat to willingly go in and out of a carrier, it is best to acquire your carrier as early as possible in his life, or in the case of an adopted adult, at the very beginning of your relationship with him.

If you only use the carrier for visits to the vet, chances are pretty high that your cat will associate his carrier with unpleasant experiences, so let’s get him comfortable with his carrier and the idea of being inside it.

Leave the open carrier in a well-used room. Place a blanket or one of kitty’s preferred bed cushions inside, along with a favorite toy. Make the carrier a cushy and secure place for your kitty. Do not try to push him in. Do not try to talk him in. Simply let the carrier be for a couple of days, and chances are that he will decide to explore it.

When you are ready to train your kitty to go into the carrier at your request, use a favorite healthy treat to help attract him and hasten the process of entering the carrier. Hold him and ask him to go in by using a word (I hesitate to use the word “command” with a feline) like “load” or “crate.” Toss his treat into the carrier so he notices it. When he enters, by himself, or with a little nudge from you, give lots of petting and praise and another treat. Do this several times in one training session and try to repeat the session a second time during the day. Many of you are probably rolling on the floor with laughter, but really, this works with a lot cats.

After a few days, and when your cat is used to going into the carrier, ask him to go inside and quietly close or zip up the door for a few seconds, then open it. Do this several times a day, and over the next several days, gradually lengthen the time the cat is closed in. Praise your cat and give him treats when he is inside and being quiet.

When your kitty is comfortable being inside the closed carrier, lift it and take him to another room, open the door, and give him a treat. Close the carrier door and bring him back to the first room, then open the door so that he may exit if he wishes.

After several days, and when he seems comfortable with being moved, you may place him in his carrier for a visit to the car.

Using a seat belt, place the carrier securely in the vehicle. Ideally your cat should be able to see you from his location.

Give him a treat and offer soothing, encouraging verbal praise.

Over a period of several days, you can start your car, turn it off, and bring your kitty back into the house. If you wish, you can begin with a very short ride around the block and then lengthen the trips a bit. This is a good idea because a moving car feels much different from a parked car.

Tip:

Try spraying a calming pheromone spray like Feliway inside the carrier. Feliway mimics facial pheromones to create a sense of calm during stressful situations.

Things to Remember

Don’t forget the treats and praise. Try to get your kitty to associate your verbal praise with the treats, since while driving, you won’t be able to safely give treats.

After a time, your cat should become accustomed to this process. It may not be his favorite activity, but he should at least be accommodating and load into his carrier without fuss.

What if Training Doesn't Work?

Even with the best intentions and amazing amounts of patience, there are some cats that simply will not go willingly into a carrier. What then?

Well, there are a couple of tricks to help you load a kitty how won't acclimate to a carrier.

All you have to remember is BACKWARDS.

Hold your cat firmly in your arms, or “scruff” him if you know how. Support his rear end with one hand and place him in his carrier rear end first.

If that proves difficult, turn the carrier on its end with the open door facing up, cradle or scruff your cat, and lower him into the carrier rear end first.

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Choosing A Cat Carrier

How Do I Get My Cat into a Carrier?

Clicker Training for Cats: An Overview

Training Your Cat To Stay Off The Kitchen Counter

Cat Training: Know the Basics

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