How to Get Your Cat to Not Be Afraid of the Carrier

Posted on 19 Apr 2017 20:45 by EricT


You should never transport your cat in a car without a cat carrier. First, it is very dangerous to have a cat wandering around the car while you drive, and second, the carrier helps to protect your cat from injury should an accident occur. There is even one more reason you may not have thought about, which I will explain below.

But, as most of us have experienced, a ride in the carrier is very stressful for a cat. Some will yowl the entire trip, and perhaps even start panting, a severe sign of stress in cats.

Petmade Top or Front Loading Rigid Cat Carrier is a Good Choice.

Being shoved in a carrier and transported to a scary place full odd smells and sounds, dogs and other cats, to be poked, prodded, and even, perish the thought, have your fur shaved and sharp things stuck in you, makes your cat associate the carrier with a very bad experience.

It is what it is, right? What can you do? Well, realize that it is simply an association. Cats don't rationalize like we humans, they simply react to stimulus. Just because your cat associates the carrier with something negative right now doesn't mean that he will always do so. You can take simple steps to change your cat's opinion of the carrier.

It's really as simple as realizing something about the carrier that you may not have before: If your cat's sole experience of this little box wasn't such horrendous experiences, he would most likely be attracted to it. It's a cozy little box. Doesn't your cat like cozy little boxes. Try putting any sort of container on the floor in a conspicuous place. You know what will happen. Yes, your cat would probably like the carrier if it was just a nice little hidey-hole sitting harmlessly on the floor.

My younger cat Petey, in fact, has no problem with the carrier. He will get inside it anytime he sees it, and even likes the gate to be closed. For that matter, he likes to spend some quality alone time inside a dark cabinet now and again.


Steps to Getting Your Cat to Like the Car Carrier

1. Make the carrier new to your cat. Cat's all about smells. So, if your carrier has previously been used to carry her to the vet, you'll want to thoroughly clean it with soapy water to remove any smells from it.

2. Place a nice folded blanket inside, or even better, a shirt or two that you or someone else in the family has worn. Unless your cat doesn't like her humans, this will be comforting. Place treats and/or a favorite toy inside. You could also put in some catnip. Better yet, spray the toy with catnip spray.

3. Leave the carrier out in an easily accessible location in a part of the house your cat spends plenty of time in. Leave the door to the carrier open.

4. Wait

After a while, chances are, your cat will check out the carrier, and then, once a thorough inspection is made and things seem on the up and up, get inside and perhaps even take a nap. You see, there is nothing about a carrier in itself that is spells BAD to a cat. It's exactly the sort of place a cat likes to get inside to feel safe and protected.

Why would my cat want to feel safe and protected? Fair question. It is simply an instinct. Sure, in times of aggravation and stress (maybe you got on her nerves) a cat might seek out a hidey-hole and get inside a box or underneath a piece of furniture. But even during nonstressful times, cats are drawn to boxes and, yes, carriers. Heck, they are even drawn to mixing bowls, pots, or anything else they can fit, or barely fit themselves into.

By leaving the carrier out and making it comfortable, it will become a nice place for your cat and she will associate it with comfort and relaxation. Quite likely then, although nothing is guaranteed, when you have to use the carrier to actually carry your cat to the vet, it will continue to be a source of comfort. Instead of your cat thinking, that box means bad stuff, it will think "this isn't my normal routine but at least I'm in my box." (No, I don't claim to know what cats are thinking but you get the idea).

Soft Fabric Carriers Versus Hard Plastic

Some people suggest that you get a soft carrier instead of a hard plastic one. This seems to make sense as such carriers may be more comfortable and more able to retain your cat's scent. Some even convert into beds. There a several of problems with this recommendation.

While your cat might like to be inside the carrier, he or she probably does not like to be completely confined and to be unable to see out very well. Hard plastic carriers have wire or plastic grid fronts so that your cat will not feel completely trapped and be able to see out. Soft fabric carrier may have mesh openings or even plexiglass windows, providing poor visibility.

Soft fabric carriers also do not ventilate well, which could cause your cat to become overheated. Plastic carriers not only have doors that let plenty of air in, they also have side vents, and they are not insulated by foam which traps your cat's body heat. The more ventilation and visibility a soft carrier has, the less rigid it is so that it is more like you are carrying your cat in a semi-rigid bag. Since a road-trip is already a stressful time, adding improper ventilation into the mix may not be a good idea.

Another thing to think about is how you will get your cat out of the carrier once you arrive at the veterinarian's office. Even a cat who didn't want to get into the carrier in the first place may resist coming out once he's at the vet! While I was a veterinarian, I often had to go in barehanded to try to drag a frightened cat out of a carrier, not a good situation for kitty or for your hand. Failing that, we sometimes resorted to half-dumping, half-pulling the cat out, while it clung on for dear life. Ideally, then, the top half of a carrier is removable, as are the tops of most rigged plastic carriers. Newer one have a door at the top for top loading or removing, while retaining the ability to take the top and bottom apart. While it should not be necessary to always remove the top, it is a good option to have when a cat is resistant to coming out of his carrier. You don't want your cat, or anyone else, to get hurt.

The last issue to consider is that soft fabric carriers just aren't that easy to clean. Rigid plastic carriers can be completely taken apart and thoroughly washed when needed. Or, they can be quickly wiped down when appropriate. Any soft items can be removed and laundered (if absolutely necessary). By the way, although I like the carriers with doors at the top, a carrier that can be separated into two halves makes for easier and more thorough cleaning. Every once in a while, a frightened cat will urinate or even poop inside their carrier, for instance, Being able to remove the entire top half will be helpful.

Wire Traveling Cage for Cat

If you have a larger truck or SUV, there is also the option of a wire traveling cage such as those used to transport dogs. This may be more comfortable for traveling as your cat will have complete visibility all the way around. However, I want to caution you about one big problem with using a wire traveling cage: They are not portable.

This means that once you arrive at your destination you will have to remove your cat from the cage outside in the parking lot, and either transfer it to a smaller carrier or worse, carry it in your arms. If you think your cat is resistant to getting in the carrier at home, try getting her into one in a busy parking lot in a strange place. It is quite possible that a nervous cat could jump out of your arms or out of the vehicle when the cage is opened and run away. I've seen this happen at the vet! It was heartbreaking. We searched and searched for the owner's cat, but we never found her.

Given that, now you know one crucial reason to use a carrier. The carrier is not only to keep your cat safe, it is to ensure that she gets inside the vet. Although some people have cats that love traveling around and will calmly submit to being carried in arms or in a papoose, etc. this is generally something you want to avoid, especially at the vet.

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