As the name suggests, owners use pet carriers to take their pets from place to place. Pet carriers are primarily a safety precaution so that your pet can be kept comfortably close by when you’re out and about; however, cats are notoriously anxious when it comes to being put inside them. What are some of the best ways to get your cat inside a pet carrier?
Some of the best ways to get a cat into a pet carrier are putting the carrier in places your cat frequents in the home, having your cat eat inside, and making the carrier feel like home. Get your cat accustomed to their carrier to effectively get them inside.
This article is going to explore why it is that some cats hate pet carriers, how you can more easily get your cat into the carrier (as well as how you can make the carrier and car ride more comfortable), how to get your cat out of a carrier, and safe alternatives to pet carriers for your cat to travel in.
Why Do Some Cats Hate Pet Carriers?
You can summarize why some cats find pet carriers the bane of their existence in two words – negative association. To specify, a large number of cats have bad memories of carriers.
The idea that “cats just really hate carriers.” has become very prevalent. Still, in reality, it’s more appropriate to say that humans have made carriers into items that represent stress and fear for their feline friends.
Try looking at it from your cat’s perspective; you’ve placed this cage-like thing just in the corner, and after managing to corral them into it, you’ve taken them to the vet. Each time afterward, being poked and prodded are all they’re going to associate the carrier with.
Many cat’s dislike of pet carriers probably isn’t helped by their people only breaking out the transport devices unless they need to take them somewhere, such as the veterinarian’s office as mentioned above or car rides.
The drastic change between the car and the infrequency of trips to the vet (or into the car in general) are shocking and even a bit terrifying when compared to their familiar environment of the house. Cats may not appreciate the break in their routine, the visual differences, or the unfamiliar scents.
A cat’s stress level can become so great during car rides that they can experience nausea, upset stomach, and incontinence. Despite the many adverse effects of being shuttled into a carrier, there are also many ways to make cat carriers more accomodating for felines.
How Can I Get My Cat Into Their Carrier?
“Getting your cat into a carrier” and “Making your cat’s carrier comfortable” are not mutually exclusive. While the two goals – which we’ll refer to from this point as “entry” and “comfort” – can be thought of as separate goals, they shouldn’t be. Just because you manage to get your cat into their carrier doesn’t mean that they’ll want to stay.
Another factor to take into account is the car ride itself. Like previously mentioned, cats may not like being in the car itself as it’s adding insult to injury. It’s bad enough that they have to be in the hated cage, but the cage is in another place they can’t stand.
Somebody could make the argument that getting your cat into their carrier is a three-part plan, and honestly, it’s not inaccurate. Getting a feline used to pet carriers takes a lot of patience and the willingness to build a safe space and new, better memories associated with the transportation method.
Get Your Cat Used to the Carrier
What this means is you should put the carrier in spots that your cat frequents in the home. Locations like your living room, by your office desk, in your bedroom, anywhere that your cat likes to be. Seeing the carrier near their favorite places for long enough may create more positive feelings toward the carrier.
Some carriers may come with harsh chemical smells or have a musty reek from lack of use. Washing and drying out the carrier can make it less unappealing to your cat.
Have Your Cat Dine in the Carrier
This method works incredibly well for traveling long distances as well as veterinary visits. One part of making this work is choosing the proper kind of pet carrier. While many cat owners typically go for the plastic kind – the ones most often used for cats and the type they’ll likely connect to veterinary trips – the larger dog crates are preferable.
However, if all you have or can find is the plastic pet carrier, that will work fine. Just be sure that you get one large enough to fit a little litter box (for long rides) and bed but light enough to lift on your own.
The goal is to make the crate/carrier somewhere that feels like home to your cat. To accomplish this, you’ll want to convince the cat to eat there, the logic being that if your cat is willing to eat in the crate, it’ll feel safe enough to stay inside of it.
It’ll take a while for your furry baby to want to enter the crate for food, though, so first, you’ll need to start by placing the crate near their food bowl.
Getting your cat in the crate should work out like this:
- Food bowl in front of the crate door on the first day three times a day
- Food bowl inside the crate entryway on the second day three times a day
- Food bowl in the back of the crate on the third day three times a day
While doing this, you may also find tossing treats inside the crate every so often helpful too. Doing so can help your cat get used to being in the carrier as well.
After your cat gets to the back of the, try making a bit of noise with the door (perhaps by tapping on the metal covering) to give them a heads up. It’s common for cats to run out before you close the door, but with enough time, they get used to eating inside the carrier while you’re making noise with the door.
The second to last step of preparing for visits to the vet or some far-off place is to feed your cat in the carrier on the day of the trip and shut the door while their food preoccupies them.
Once you’ve come back from the vet or gotten to your vacation destination, keep feeding them in the carrier. Getting your pet’s mind off of the trip can help them adjust to traveling in the crate.
To that end, you’ll need to repeat the three-day feeding method for a couple more days before you put the crate away. The carrier can stay in storage until a week before you need to travel again.
Make the Cat Carrier Homey
As previously stated, cats feel stressed when being transported because they’re somewhere that lacks the touches of home that they’re used to.
An easy way to fix this is to make the carrier feel like a little house of sorts.
There are two great options you can use for bedding; a cat bed – one that they’ve already “broken in” would work best – or one of your sweaters. The latter will work as suitable bedding because your cat will find your scent comforting.
For the final touch, throw in some of their favored soft toys. These act as scent soakers, which are essential items that hold your cat’s scent and mark any space they’re at as belonging to your feline.
Make a Cat Burrito
Here is a technique that works if you find yourself pressed for time. Whereas the other tips shared so far are best used days or even a week ahead of your planned journey, you can perform the cat burrito method quickly enough to limit stress to both owner and pet.
One thing you should note is that this method is best used on cats that aren’t injured and are friendly. Another thing to note is that your bathroom is the best bet for getting your kitty in the carrier as there are fewer places for them to run or hide.
Put the carrier into the bathroom at least a day before the cat needs to be in there. Try to choose a time when your cat is busy eating or sleeping.
After placing the carrier upward so that the door is toward the ceiling, find a light but large towel that can wrap around your cat to contain their legs and paws. Take care that the towel isn’t too thick to fit through the door.
You’ll have to get your cat into the bathroom (depending on your cat’s mood, this might involve treats or picking them up and taking them there) and close the door behind you. You can use the towel that you found and wrap your cat tightly enough that they can’t wriggle away, but not so tight that they’re unable to breathe or are afraid.
After you’ve made your cat burrito, place them in the carrier tail first, so they don’t see themselves being lower in the carrier, and close the door. If you’re worried about them getting stuck inside the towel, don’t be as they can free themselves.
Calm Your Cat’s Senses
There will be many unfamiliar stimuli while traveling, and exposing your cat to it can lead to stress and panic. There are two ways to ease your cat’s senses while on the go.
Putting a towel over the carrier will keep your cat from becoming agitated by all the new, exotic sights surrounding them. Spaying a bit of CEVA Animal Health Feliway Cat Calming Spray inside of the crate can help to calm your cat too. Feliway is an artificial version of naturally occurring pheromones that de-stress felines.
How Do I Get My Cat Out of Their Carrier?
Now that you’ve gotten your cat into their carrier, you’re going to have to get them out. That might be easier said than done, though, as cats aren’t exactly the best travelers in the world. Your feline might be anxious and too nervous to want to leave their crate.
If your cat seems calm enough, you could talk them out of the carrier. Modulate your voice so that it’s soft and gentle, and let them sniff your fingers before you open the door.
Continue to soothe your cat out of the carrier by placing a hand on their head so that it’s turned toward the inside of the crate and place your other arm around the cat’s body as support.
If your cat is still showing slight signs of fearfulness, you may need to hold them by the back of the neck with one hand and keep their forepaws down with the other to prevent the cat from scratching at you (or the vet).
If necessary, the veterinarian might be able to help you remove your pet from the carrier.
You can also use the towel you’ve got inside the carrier (if you used a towel) to wrap your cat if they’re showing signs of aggression.
Should I Still Take My Cat to the Vet if They Look Healthy?
Despite the admitted pain getting your cat in their carrier can be, you should never skip veterinary visits because of it. It would be best if you took your cat to see the vet at least once a year (preferably twice a year) for regular checkups, vaccinations, and teeth cleanings.
Whether or not your cat lives indoors or outside doesn’t matter. Both types of cat are prone to disease and injury which can be hard to spot at first.
Cats are terrifyingly good at hiding when they are in pain, so it’s best to take them to their annual appointments regardless of potential scratches or fits of anxiety.
What if I Don’t Have a Pet Carrier?
It’s actually not a requirement to have a pet carrier, but it is best to have something that either can be carried or held onto to keep your cat safe. If your cat becomes high-strung enough, they can get overly-excited or overly-scared, and this can result in injury to you, themselves, or other people’s pets while at the vet’s office.
No two cats are equal, and some cats are calm enough that travel doesn’t upset them. Cat beds are more than sufficient to move the more relaxed, more sedate cats out there from place to place. Older and quieter, more laid-back cats are content to lay in their beds and be carried.
Cats as a whole tend to have a love/hate relationship with harnesses. Some cats are okay with them, and some find them uncomfortable, so it’s essential to make sure that your cat is fine with wearing one.
Getting a cat used to a harness can take some time, so if your cat has never worn one before, it’s not a good idea to try it out just before a trip to the vet.
Never try to substitute a harness with a simple leash around the collar. A leash attached to a collar may not be enough to keep a cat from getting away and can even result in injury.
A big gym can suffice if you’re merely getting your cat to the vet. Gym bags are easy to clean if your cat pees inside of them and are typically well ventilated. Choose a bag with a hard bottom, so your cat isn’t irritated when you move it.
It’s also probably a good idea to place a scent-soaked sweater or towel on the bottom of the bag to keep your cat relaxed.
Perhaps the fastest, most straightforward way to get your pet anywhere (aside from using your arms) is to find a cardboard box and plot your cat inside. Cardboard boxes are easy to source, and the soft but thick material makes them a perfect fit for your dear kitty’s claws.
Your cat’s box has to be large enough for them to fit inside comfortably, and you’ll need to puncture some holes so that your cat can breathe. From there, it’s as simple as taping the top of the box, and you can be on your way.
Many cats are perfectly OK being put inside of a pet carrier and many aren’t. Plenty of cats despise carriers because they connect them with veterinary trips or car rides.
There are various ways to get your cat inside of a carrier and to make it comfortable. You can have your cat eat inside the carrier or wrap them in a towel and lower them inside.
Lastly, while you don’t need a pet carrier, you will need some means to transport or hold onto your cat, so they aren’t overwhelmed, hurt you, themselves, or other animals.