How to Train Your Cat to Like the Cat Carrier

Cats and carriers... Their antagonism is almost as well known as cats and dogs. But some cats and dogs like each other, so why not cats and carriers? At least with that pairing, there's only one individual to train.

Of course, if your kitty panics at the first inkling of a carrier being deployed, you may be skeptical. Nevertheless, we've actually found that, with a little patience, it is possible to train your cat not to hate the carrier!

Imagine if you could take your cat to the vet for regular check-ups easily. That can make a significant positive difference for your cat's health. Too many cats don’t get regular wellness visits because of the drama that ensues when the cat carrier is deployed. The drama often results in owners being unwilling to traumatize their cats unnecessarily, so those cats may not get to a doctor until they're very ill.

 

5 Steps to Change Your Cat’s Relationship With the Cat Carrier

  • Start Them Young - If you have a kitten (like Dash, the fluffy orange baby on the right), this is ideal. If they’re not old enough to have negative associations with the carrier yet, then help them make positive ones right from the start by following the steps outlined below. This way, the carrier is part of your kitten's socialization into a happy, well-adjusted adult kitty. If you have an older cat, it will take more patience, but it’s worth it for drama-free episodes when you need the carrier.
  • Make the Carrier Familiar - This is probably the simplest thing you can do to make the carrier less scary for your cat.
    • Think about it from their perspective: you probably keep the carrier hidden away in a closet, the garage, or another out of the way location. Then, right before you need to take your cat to the vet, you haul it out. Cats by nature aren’t big on traveling, and they much prefer to stay in their own, familiar territory. Combine a car ride in a box that only comes out when they have to travel and a visit to the vet's office (definitely not their territory), and it’s no wonder they’re terrified.
    • But the best way to conquer fear is to face it. The carrier itself isn’t scary; the fear comes from what it represents. Defang it, so to speak, by letting your cat get to know the carrier. Bring it out of hiding and let it sit in your living room (or other spot that Kitty likes). Just like many dogs feel safe in their crates and hang out in them, cats can do the same. In fact, if you make the carrier part of their everyday environment, they might choose to spend time in it (like Dash does, when he's not busy sleeping on top).
    • It might help to put a soft blanket and some of Kitty's favorite toys in the carrier so it seems less scary. Feliway (a pheromonal spray) can also help.
  • Create Positive Associations - Does your kitty have favorite treats? Put a couple on the floor near the carrier. Over time, get them closer and closer until they're inside it. As long as you're acting normally, Kitty will eventually begin to see the carrier as a normal part of his/her world and start going in it to get the treats. The goal is to get your cat accustomed to good things happening in the carrier. But don’t rush it. Let your cat’s behavior be your guide.
  • Play with Your Cat Near the Carrier - Continuing with the positive associations, play with your kitty and pet him/her near the carrier. As your cat gets used to it being in the room and begins to associate it with positive things, then he’ll feel better about it. If Kitty likes catnip, you can put some of that inside the carrier to help with the adjustment process.
  • Practice - Once Kitty's okay with the carrier being around and even going in the carrier, you can practice closing the door and feeding treats to show it’s okay to be in it. Then, let Kitty out. As your cat gets comfortable being in a closed carrier on the floor, you can practice picking it up and carrying it across the room or around the house.

 

Have Patience

The entire training/desensitization process can take days, weeks or months, depending on your cat. As you know, cats can be slow to accept new things, so have patience.

Eventually, even the most stubborn cats will come to accept the carrier, and some will even like it (like Ogre, the big kitty on the right!). Having your cat willingly enter a cat carrier - or at least not fight you when it's necessary - will make life much easier for you and much healthier for Kitty. You’ll be able to transport Kitty safely to the vet or anywhere else you may need to go.

 

Need to make an appointment, find the right carrier or get some Feliway? Contact us! 

 

 

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