Austin loves his box

Everyone knows that cats LOVE boxes right? Then why is it so hard to put them in a cat carrier?

While the easy answer for most situations is to call a mobile veterinarian like Blue Door Veterinary Services, during an emergency (health or disaster), a carrier can be a life saver.

Would you believe me if I said you can train your cat to get in the carrier without injury, blood loss and tears? Yes, I said train your cat.  Now is the time to start teaching your cat that the carrier is a safe place.

chill cat with carrier

For most cats, their only experience with the carrier is a scary ride to the vet. With each successive trip to an unhappy place, the idea of a carrier can get scarier and scarier to a cat. For kittens, we can start them out early, teaching them that the carrier is a safe, even a fun place.  For older kitties who are already fearful of the carrier, with some positive reinforcement and some time, we can change their perceptions of carriers and make them less likely to practice their claw sharpening on you when it becomes necessary to use a carrier for transportation.

Let’s get started:

  • Start by bringing the cat carrier out: Out of the garage, attic, closet, where ever you have it hidden. Clean it up of all the cobwebs and dust bunnies and set it in a quiet, but easily accessible, place for your cat to see. 
  • Now let’s make it inviting: place a soft towel or something that smells like home inside, add some cat nip or perhaps maybe even some feline pheromone spray (we recommend Feliway).
  • Leave the door open – remove it if possible. If you have the hard plastic kind that you can take the lid off, then I recommend taking the lid off to start as well. We want to make it as open as possible so your cat doesn’t feel like it’s a trap.
  • For some really fearful cats, you’ll have to start slow.  Introduce your cat to the sight of the carrier by feeding them in view of the carrier. No pressure to go in, it’s just there. Slowly move the bowl closer to the carrier each day.  Do that for as many days as necessary to get your cat comfortable walking right up to the carrier and eating next to it.
  • Next, I recommend offering high value food or treats inside the carrier. Still no pressure; the door doesn’t shut. Our goal is for your cat to willingly go into the carrier.
  • Continue to offer food and treats in and near the carrier indefinitely. You will find your cat willing to enter the carrier eventually. Once she’s comfortable getting in and out of the cat carrier, you can slowly begin closing the door and picking the carrier up.  Short periods of time, stopping before she panics.  Let her out and give more treats.
cat carrier
Nick is relaxed in his soft sided carrier
  • If you have to take your cat anywhere in the carrier, make sure to have the carrier out in the days before you must leave and leave it out a few days after you bring your kitty home.  Do what you can to never bring the carrier out immediately before you have to take your cat anywhere in it.
  • It may take a long time for older cats who have a real fear of the carriers, but it is totally worth it to get them used to it.
  • Positive reinforcement and time – It really is a simple as that.