How To Get A Cat In A Carrier
By Sara Ochoa, DVM May 06, 2019
Sometimes bringing your cat to different places can be a challenge. Some cats really do not like being put in a carrier. They can become quite fractious and unreasonable. But don't worry: There are ways to help your cat become more familiar with their carrier. Furthermore, there are ways to make them more comfortable and happy while they are inside. You want your cat to have a positive experience when they're being transported, and that starts before the journey even begins.
How To Choose The Appropriate Cat Carrier
Before you start to training your cat to be put in a carrier, the first thing to do is to find one that is an appropriate size and easy for you to carry. A good rule of thumb is to choose a carrier that is roughly twice the size of your cat. The carrier should give your cat just enough room to turn around or stretch. It is important to find a carrier that is large enough to allow your cat to move, but not so large that your cat tumbles around in it. Remember: You want your cat to have a positive experience, and being squished into a carrier that is small and uncomfortable simply won't provide that!
What Material Is Best For A Cat Carrier?
The material you choose always comes down to personal preference. However, there are some things you should consider.
- Hard Plastic
A hard plastic carrier will provide more security during travel and is easier to clean and disinfect. Hard plastic carriers come in a variety of configurations, including doors mounted on the top and the sides.
- Soft Materials
Soft materials, such as nylon, typically make carriers more comfortable. However, they are only recommended if your cat is calm. An irritable cat can tear a nylon carrier to shreds and make it difficult to remove them. Unfortunately, some cats can become car sick and vomit. The softer materials tend to absorb liquids making them more difficult to clean.
- Metal Wire
Things like wire carriers are not recommended for travel as they can cause injury while going down bumpy roads where your cat can get a limb stuck in the many openings. Hard plastic or nylon carriers are recommended as their openings are small and placed strategically to avoid injury from happening.
How To Familiarize A Cat With Their Carrier
Now that you have found the perfect carrier, it is time to start getting your cat familiar with it. You never want to buy a carrier and just stuff your cat in it. Any cat owner can attest that cats, in general, do not react well to sudden changes, and you might find yourself in need of stitches if you try this.
When familiarizing your cat with a new carrier, it is recommended to start training them as early as possible. The younger your cat is, the easier it will be for them to come to see their carrier as a comfortable place. This will make it much easier to get them inside when the time comes for a visit to the veterinarian. If your cat is already an adult and their old carrier just needs to be replaced, you may find that just because they were used to their old carrier, doesn’t necessarily mean they will accept the new one. If that's the case, you'll want to familiarize them with their new one. Here's how:
- Step 1: Put the Carrier in A Quiet Place for Your Cat to Explore
The first thing to do is put the carrier in a quiet place where your cat can smell and explore it without a lot of distractions. Place an article of recently worn clothing belonging to their favorite person in the household inside the carrier. This can make your cat feel like they are going somewhere with their favorite person. Familiar smells are a huge way to make your cat comfortable.
- Step 2: Use Treats
Treats can go a long way as well. Place a few treats just inside the doorway of the carrier so your cat can eat them without having to enter all the way. Once your feline friend becomes comfortable getting treats, start putting the treats further and further inside until your cat is comfortable going all the way in on their own. This can take anywhere from days to weeks so be patient.
- Step 3: Make the Carrier a Fun Experience
Once your cat is comfortable going into the carrier on their own, engage them in play in and around the carrier. Play with your cat using toys to show them that a carrier is a fun place. The experience will help your cat feel the carrier is a safe and secure place. When playtime is over, leave the toys inside the carrier. You may find that your cat will enter the carrier to play on their own!
- Step 4: Testing the Comfort Level of Your Cat inside the Carrier
When your cat enters the carrier, try closing the door without latching it shut. This way your cat can still exit whenever he or she wants. Again, it is imperative to stay patient and do things slowly. The more comfortable your cat becomes, the easier things will be in the long run.
- Step 5: Walk Around with Your Cat inside the Carrier
Once your cat seems fine being inside the carrier, then close and latch the door. Next, walk around the house with your cat inside. Take the carrier to another room, place the carrier on the floor, and open the carrier door. Don’t try to remove your cat. Just let them come out on their own. They may seem a little distressed at first, but they will soon get used to it. Repeat this step a few times to help your cat get used to being transported inside a carrier and exiting on their own. After this step is accomplished, your cat is now trained and ready to go on their journey.
How To Put Your Cat In A Carrier
The best way to load your cat into a carrier is by training them to go in by themselves. However, there are times that your cat is just not willing to cooperate, no matter what you try to do. If this is the case, then try gently loading them with their behind facing the carrier entrance first while giving them plenty of affection as you place them in the carrier. If your cat shows more resistance, then turn the carrier with the opening facing up vertically off the floor. Gently scruff your cat and set them inside bottom first. Usually, even a disagreeable cat is fine once they are in the carrier, they simply dislike the initial act of entering it. Always be gentle and patient. Do not shove your cat inside the carrier as this can potentially cause injury and make them afraid of the carrier. Moreover, doing so will make it more difficult to get your cat inside a carrier in the future.
If your cat is fine with being placed inside the carrier by you, then consider buying a carrier that has a door on the top and a door on the side. This will make it easier for you to place your cat inside using the top entrance. Moreover, the side entrance will give your cat the ability to easily exit.
There are a lot of options when it comes to finding the right carrier for your cat. The important thing to remember is that no matter what type of carrier you buy, you have to make your feline friend feel safe and comfortable inside. Take your time and stay patient. You will help make your cats next trip a more positive experience from start to finish.