Most cats simply don’t like carriers. It’s a fact of (cat) life.
And we get it…they’re confining, they jostle, and who likes to be essentially held captive? Cats sure don’t. The thing is, sometimes your cat needs to be in a carrier. Plane rides, moves across town, and even trips to a surgical center can all necessitate some time spent inside a carrier.
Here’s how to get your cat used to it. (Or at least…how to make her not freak out.)
Chose the Right Carrier
There are dozens of types of cat carriers on the market. Selecting the right one has a lot to do with how successfully you’ll be able to get your cat used to being in hers. For many cats, soft-sided carriers are the least offensive, though understand how your carrier is going to be used. If you need to fly with your cat, for example, check with your airline first to make sure they don’t require hard-sided carriers. Choose a carrier with as many breathable, open sides as possible, particularly the top. If your cat can see out of the top of her carrier she’s far less likely to panic.
Start Early, Start Slowly
One surefire way to make your cat absolutely lose it when you stuff her in the carrier is to, well, stuff her in the carrier. Your end-goal is to eventually have your cat enter the carrier voluntarily. This may seem like a stretch, but the first step is always the same: teach your cat to associate the carrier with positive things. Yes, it really is that simple! The rub is that cats are skeptical creatures, so yours is going to see through any thinly-veiled attempts to turn her carrier into Studio 54. Slow and steady wins the race.
The Treat Treatment
Teaching your cat to associate positivity with her carrier is all about treats. Start by placing a blanket or cloth she’s already attached to – preferably one she sleeps with or eats treats off of – in the carrier. (If that’s too much, you can start with the blanket in the same room as the carrier, gradually moving it closer. Once your cat is calm and relaxed on the blanket, give her a treat. She’ll learn to associate that calm behavior with treats. It’s best to do this little dance only every other day or so at first; cats are smart and if yours feels like she’s being “had,” she might boycott your little experiment.
Reinforce Good Behavior
Once your cat is used to being lured into the carrier by her blanket and treats, start leaving the carrier out so she can explore it at her leisure. Occasionally put a few extra treats in there and be sure not to scare her (even unintentionally) while she’s getting her bearings. The process of lowering your cat’s hackles in regards to the carrier is probably going to take weeks and weeks. Over time, practice zipping or closing the carrier and then moving it from room to room. Just remember to take baby steps and to always let your cat get out if she starts to panic.
Why Is This Important?
You may not think you have any reason to carrier-train your cat. “She’s an indoor cat!” you say, “and I’m never planning on taking her on a plane trip.” That may be true, but what if you need to rush her to an emergency vet clinic and she’s frantic with pain? Or what if you need to board her last minute and the facility requires she be transported in a carrier? Putting in the effort when the stakes are low will set you up for success when you really need your cat to be in a carrier, and fast.
Is carrier-aversion keeping you from taking your cat to the vet? We get it. Vetted PetCare pets come to you so you never have to force your cat into a carrier if she’s not ready.