Unlike many of our canine friends, cats tend to be homebodies. Their ears don’t perk up at the very mention of the C-A-R, and they’d just as soon nap on the couch than be bothered by what the neighbor is up to. Still, cats do need to travel from time to time. Whether it’s going to the vet for routine checkups or to a boarder during a trip, your cat will have to use a cat carrier at least occasionally.
As any cat owner knows, getting your kitty into a carrier can take almost as long as the drive to wherever it is you’re going. You try to cajole with treats and soft words, only to find yourself half under the bed dragging your poor cat out into the daylight while they let their displeasure be known.
Then there’s actually getting your cat inside the carrier. Do you go head-first or butt-first? How fast can you close the opening before your cat slips out again?
There has to be a better way!
Luckily, you can train your cat to like — or at least tolerate — a pet carrier. While this training is best begun at a young age, any cat can be taught that going into a carrier isn’t the end of the world.
Of course, the first step is to choose the right carrier. Size, safety, and comfort should be your top priorities. Let’s look at each one in turn.
Choosing the Right Cat Carrier
Consider the Size
When fully grown, your cat should be able to stand, sit, and turn around in their carrier. That means getting a carrier that’s about one-and-a-half times the size of your cat. If the carrier is too small, you may have trouble getting your cat inside and they won’t be comfortable. If the carrier is too big, you may have problems carrying or balancing it, which doesn’t make for a pleasant ride.
A carrier should be easy to use and provide a safe way to transport you cat. There are many options and features available. The most tried-and-true carriers are hard plastic ones. They are stable, easy to carry, and simple to clean if your cat has an accident or gets carsick. But there are also soft-sided carriers and rolling luggage-style carriers that are equally attractive. The safest carrier is one that you’ll be able to handle well and that provides a secure environment for your cat.
Cats practically demand comfort, and a carrier should be no exception. Choosing the right size carrier is part of making your cat cozy. You should also take into account the number of openings and whether or not your cat will want to see out. Having more than one opening can make it easier to get your cat into and out of the carrier. Likewise, the ability to see out can be important for some cats, while others will prefer to have a blanket or towel placed over the carrier to make a dark environment.
Getting Your Cat Acclimated to the Cat Carrier
Once you’ve selected your carrier, it’s time to begin training your cat to like it. At this point, it’s important to keep the carrier out and visible, just like any other piece of furniture. Hiding the carrier away and taking it out just for trips to the vet reinforces negative association. But keeping the carrier in plain sight just makes it another part of the house. Elevated spots can sometimes be best. Just make sure that the carrier is stable wherever you decide to put it.
As another part of your training prep, put something familiar to your cat inside the bottom of the carrier. This can be a favorite blanket, towel, or even a piece of clothing that has their scent. You can also try a blanket or towel that has been sprayed with a cat pheromone like Feliway®. Just wait until it’s dry before letting your cat go near it. If your kitty is particularly wary of going inside the carrier, you can take the top off (if your model allows it) and leave it completely open for the time being.
Finally, it’s time to begin some positive association with the carrier. You can do this by placing some of your cat’s favorite things around the carrier wherever you have it placed in your home. Cats often respond well to positive reinforcement, so try placing treats or catnip inside the carrier so they become comfortable going in and out. You can also play with toys around the carrier. A dangling toy or laser pointer, which can be moved into and out of the carrier, work well.
As your cat becomes more comfortable around the carrier, you can also try feeding them regular meals near it. Start by feeding your kitty outside the carrier. As time goes on, you can try placing their food inside the carrier to see if they’re comfortable eating within. If your cat isn’t ready yet, don’t force the issue. You can always try again the next day.
Patience is Key
Training your cat to like a pet carrier doesn’t happen overnight. This process can take days, weeks, or longer depending on your cat’s age and temperament. Younger, adventurous cats may take to the process quickly, while nervous cats may need additional work. When your cat is comfortable going inside, though, it’s good to provide even more positive encouragement. Try closing the carrier and giving your cat a treat every time they’re successfully inside.
Getting your cat ready for a big day out doesn’t have to involve scratches, hissing, and a whole lot of bandages. With the right preparation, a trip to the vet can be no big deal and a pet carrier can just be another place for a catnap.
We’re Here to Help Enrich Your Cat’s Life!
At RCO Pet Care, we are here for you during your time of need. Our cat sitting services start at just $23 per visit. We will work together to ensure we are covering all of your cats’ needs, as well as keeping you safe, while we continue to fight through this COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn how RCO Pet Care Care can help you with your pet care needs, check out our services, contact us or call us at (203) 641-2428. We are proud to service Middlebury, Naugatuck, Oxford, Seymour, Southbury, Thomaston, Torrington, Waterbury, Watertown and Woodbury, CT. If you’re outside of our service area, we’re happy to help you find a reputable, professional pet care provider. We’ve got your tail!