By Cuddla | Cat

Cat carrier training: how to get a cat into a travel carrier

Cat carriers are “necessary, but they shouldn’t be a necessary evil,” says Dr Jane Brunt, and we certainly agree.

If you need to travel with your cat or small dog, even just to vet visits, or must evacuate your home, you want a safe, comfortable way to travel with your feline family member.

The more familiar and comfortable your puppy or kitty is with her carrier, and the safer she feels in it, the less stressful it will be for her when you need to move her in it.

So here are some tips for travel carrier training for both dogs and cats:

Carrier training for cats

#1 – Get a carrier

Purchase the carrier before you bring a pet home for the first time or make sure you have it well in advance of any planned outings.

Carrier specs for cats :

  • The size should be large enough for her to stand up and turn around in.
  • You also want to make sure a soft-sided carrier is sturdy enough to not collapse under the weight of the seatbelt, i.e. hard plastic carriers. Especially applies for carriers to use in car travel.

#2 – Place carrier in her environment

Once you buy a carrier, make it part of your cat’s environment.

Since cats tend to like high places, Dr Brunt suggests placing the carrier on a couch or chair. Also, remember that cats like warmer areas, so place the carrier in a ray of sunlight or near (but not too near) a heat source.

Tie the doors open so they can’t accidentally close and place comfy bedding in the carrier, either something your pet has been using so it smells familiar or something with your scent on it.

#3 – Reward his acclimation

Reward your cat with praise, petting, and treats when he investigates the carrier, and especially if he goes inside.

Remember, the goal is to gradually acclimate him to the carrier, and make it a place he likes to visit.

#4 – Attract her with food

You can entice your cat with food by placing her food bowl closer to the carrier. If she’s still suspicious and won’t go to her bowl, move it just far enough so that she’ll eat.

Also, you can add a small amount of a special treat she loves on top of her meal to further tempt her. Once she’s eating from the bowl without hesitation, start moving it closer with each meal until she’s eating comfortably very close to the carrier.

Next, place the food bowl inside the carrier, right at the entrance, so your pet can reach bites of food without having to actually step inside.

After several days of eating from her bowl, which is placed just inside the carrier entrance, move it a few inches toward the back of the carrier each day until she’s standing completely inside as she eats.

#5 – Toys and treats in the carrier

Put a few of your cat’s favourite toys and treats into the carrier at random times. The idea is to associate only pleasant, fun, yummy things with the carrier each time your cat explores it.

#6 – Soothe anxiety with smells

Consider placing some stress-reducing oils for cat anxiety like Lavender essential oil.

#7 – Patience and continuous rewards

Wait patiently for your pet to hang in and out of his carrier, and hopefully napping there.

This process could take several weeks or even several months, which is why you must be patient while continuing to praise, put meals, treats, toys, and other fun stuff in the carrier.

#8 – Closing the door

Once your cat is feeling at home in her carrier, try closing the door for a very short time with her inside, making sure to let her out before she becomes anxious or panics. Slowly extend the time in the crate by 30 seconds to a minute during each practice session.

#9 – Take a trip

When you can close the door for significant periods of time without upsetting your kitty, you can start bringing her along on short car rides to get her accustomed to being in the carrier in a moving car that doesn’t stop at the veterinary clinic.

Each time you return home with your cat, go right back to providing meals, toys, and treats in the crate so he continues to associate his carrier with goodness.

Travel carrier alternatives

There are also save alternatives to crates or carriers if you want to take your small dog or cat outside, and you don’t need a car.

Soft bags

You often see cat owners carrying their furry friends in soft bags like the one in the photo.

Cat basket 

If you are a bike lover, you might want to consider letting your pet joining you! Only if you make the necessary safety arrangements, of course.

Traditional travel carrier

However, if travelling by car, make sure that your carrier is sturdy enough to not collapse under the weight of the seatbelt. For this occasion, you might want to go for a hard plastic crate or a soft-sided but sturdy enough carrier.

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