How to get Your Cat Used to Their Carrier

Authored by the team at Vital Pet Club

We all know that if our cats had an arch-nemesis, it would be their cat carrier. And, for some cats, no amount of treats, trickery or full-on pleading will get them on board! Surely there must be a simpler way…

This article covers how to put your feline into their carrier calmly and safely.

How to train your cat

Effective cat training involves shaping your cat’s behaviour through positive reinforcement, which basically means getting them to do certain things (like walking into their cat carrier or letting you check their paws) by making the experience more positive. This might involve using familiar items or pheromone sprays, or rewarding them afterwards (normally with treats).

Unlike dogs, cats are not able to read our behaviour as well and don’t have the innate desire to please us in the ways dogs do. This means that the best way to motivate them to do something is often through food.

That being said, it’s important to not set your expectations too high, as it can take some time for your puss to learn new things. It’s also vital that you always view training as a fun game with your cat. Don’t become frustrated if your puss doesn’t learn something straight away and never punish your furball, as the best way for your cat to learn is in a happy and relaxed environment.

Getting your cat used to their carrier

It’s important to try and get your cat used to their carrier from a young age so they see it as a normal part of their home, rather than a demon box that only appears when they have that dreaded car ride to the vets or the cattery. By having your cat carrier out in your home, you allow your fussy feline to walk in and out freely and become familiar with the cat basket- they may even nod off in there!

You can put your cat’s treats, favourite blankets and toys in the carrier so your cat associates it with positive things. And you can also spray the inside with a pheromone spray, as your puss will be able to recognise these pheromones, which will help them to feel more relaxed and comfortable in their carrier.

All of these techniques will allow your cat to think of going into their carrier as a positive experience. And, for many cats, this can change their behaviour, making them want to go into the carrier more, and also causing them to feel less stressed when they’re inside the carrier. And, by changing your cat’s behaviour, and getting them to do something that they wouldn’t normally want to do, you are successfully training your cat!

How to put your cat in their carrier

The first and most important thing to remember when putting your cat into their carrier is to remain calm and be gentle. As frustrating as it may be, getting worked up will only make your kitty more worried and stressed and they will probably try to run away, or may even become aggressive, making the process even more difficult for both of you.

Start by lining your cat’s carrier with newspaper followed by a familiar non-slip blanket or vet bed. Then make sure you give your cat plenty of opportunities to investigate the carrier, as some felines (especially kittens) will just walk straight in, especially if you have trained them to get used to the carrier.

Try to avoid forcing your cat into the carrier, as this can be very frightening for them, and may send them into a panic. However, if you can’t get your cat won’t go into their carrier voluntarily, it’s time to decide whether you are going to put them into the carrier head or bottom first.

The Head-first technique

If you are trying to put your cat in head first, place one hand under their chest, with the other supporting their bottom and slowly lift them into the carrier. Be sure to promptly shut the carrier door behind them, as cats will often try and spin around to escape. But always make sure you’re not going to accidentally trap their ears, paws or tail first!

Bottom-first!

The advantage of this technique is that your cat won’t see the carrier coming, however you may be more likely to get nipped or scratched! Again, gently hold your cat’s chest with one hand and bottom with the other and either lower your cat into the basket, with the carrier facing upward, or carry them into a normally positioned carrier (like with the head-first method) again making sure you close the door behind them.

Carriers with detachable lids can make putting your cat into their carrier so much easier! By removing the lid from your cat carrier, you will be able to place your puss into the lower half of the carrier before gently replacing the lid and quickly closing the door. This is the best way to get most cats into their carrier because many felines will panic and resist more if they are put into their carrier through the front door as this smaller opening will often feel make your cat feel more confined.

How big should your cat’s carrier be?

It’s important to have a carrier that is large enough for your cat to be able to turn around inside, but not so big that your cat may slide around and hurt themselves when travelling. It’s also important not to put more than one cat in each carrier- even if your cats get on well- as cats don’t like to be in confined spaces together and may become aggressive.

Preventing escapees

Before you leave the house with your cat in their carrier, always make sure the top of their carrier is securely attached, and that the carrier door is locked- as you don’t want an escapee! But it’s always worth making sure your cat’s microchip details are up-to-date so you’re prepared for any worst-case scenarios. It’s also a good idea to place a blanket over the front of your cat carrier, as this can help your puss to feel secure and safe.

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