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How To Get Your Cat Into The Carrier

September 22, 2012

Our cats are exact opposites when it comes to getting into their carriers.

CG absolutely loves his. When he was a kitten, every time I would pull out his carrier he would literally run to it and walk in. More recently, I have to suggest it to him by placing him in front of his carrier, but he always makes the decision to enter.

While he’s no longer as enthusiastic, I learned from the get-go that creating positive associations with the carrier, like taking him on day-trips to relatives’ homes, was essential.

Ellie, on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate. As a kitten she had to go to the vet frequently, so her fear of the carrier quickly escalated over several weeks. Unfortunately, we’ve never gotten past that fear, and consequently, getting her into her carrier is a bit more of a challenge.

Recently, my husband and I came up with a solution. It’s not *ideal* (ideally, she’d go in on her own), but it certainly helps. I was so excited that I wanted to share it and a few other tips with you in case you face a similar circumstance.

First, make the carrier a comfortable place. I always lay a folded towel in carrier. I’ve also lined the bottom of Ellie’s carrier with a padded mat (velcro-ed to the bottom of the carrier), since she always likes to hide under the towel.

Once that’s set up, we place the carrier on its end with the door open. Some carriers have doors on their top, so that’s an option too.

Most folks will instruct you to hold your cat under his arms and lower him in the carrier, but often cats will stick out their hind legs, making it very difficult to lower them in. We avoid that by not only holding Ellie under her arms, but also holding her two hind feet together. If you can get the tail too, that makes it even easier. Slowly lower your cat in to the carrier, tail first. Once you have the lower half in, it’s easy.

Be confident in your movements and actions. Cats can sense if you’re nervous. Just do it in one movement.

When your cat is in the carrier, shut and latch the door carefully. You never know when a toe or tail will get caught! Then slowly lower the carrier on to its bottom, so you don’t hurt your cat. 

While that’s our current solution, ultimately, the best way to handle this situation is to create positive associations with the carrier while your cat is still young. If possible, take her on car rides and finish the trip with some snuggles and treats when back at home.

Photo courtesy jima

Since most of you may be past that point, all is not lost. Here’s what you can try to do in the long-term.

Keep your carrier out in a visible location at all times. We keep ours in our bedroom (we also remove the front door from the carrier). While the cats don’t always go in the carriers, at least the sight of them doesn’t make our kitties go running.

If your cat tends to avoid the carrier, even once you leave it out, try these suggestions.

Lay a towel or blanket in there along with a few toys and some treats. Let your cat explore the carrier on her own terms in her own time.

Another more proactive solution is to train your cat.

Start by placing treats outside of the carrier, and slowly place them closer and closer until they’re inside the carrier. Some suggest feeding your cat his meals in his carrier once he starts going in there for treats. Basically, you want your cat to feel comfortable in the carrier.

Start closing the door for a few seconds at a time so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Try to lengthen the amount of time your cat spends in the carrier to build up his tolerance. Give your cat a treat every time he behaves in the carrier. If you have some time and patience, this may pay off.

And here’s one last best practice to end on. Do not use a cardboard carrier unless it’s absolutely necessary. Some shelters will send a cat home in a cardboard carrier, but you should really have a real one by the time you pick up your cat. Cardboard won’t contain urine or vomit, plus some cats can escape from them.

How does your cat respond to his cat carrier? Have you come up with any tricks? Please share!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 23, 2012 4:46 pm

    Dotty gets extremely upset being in the carrier. She tears at the metal door, ripping off her claws, which causes her problems climbing for a couple of weeks after the vet visit. I’m going to go get it from the basement now and put it in the living room and just leave it there all the time… I used to do that, but it got in the way. She never did warm up to it or go inside. When it comes time to go to the vet, I have to struggle to get her inside.

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