Whether you’re taking your cat to the vet for a check-up or venturing on a longer trip, the thought of getting out the cat carrier probably makes your heart sink, and you may even have the scars that tell the tale of previous attempts!
However, it is possible to work with your cat to take away some of the negative associations he has with the cat carrier, so try these steps and hopefully we can ensure that the hissing, growling and clawed attacks become a thing of the past.
Leave the carrier out in a socially significant area and somewhere that he spends a lot of time, and let him get used to the scent and sight of the carrier at his own pace. You may need to leave the carrier in the corner of the room for a few days.
2. Encourage investigation.
Leave the door open (and the top off if it’s the type of carrier that comes in two parts), and add a favourite blanket or towel, or something else with your cat’s scent on it that will entice him to go inside. This will make the cat carrier much less scary although he may not venture too close initially.
3. Tempt with treats.
If your cat is motivated by food, place a few treats outside the carrier, inching closer and closer over a few days as your cat continues to get more comfortable with being around the cat carrier. Eventually you can start to place treats inside the carrier, or feed him a meal in there.
4. Close the carrier door.
Once your cat is comfortable moving in and out of the cat carrier, you can put the top back on, and start shutting the door when he’s inside. Start slowly, by counting to 5 seconds then open the door again. Do this a few times, to get your cat used to it, gradually leaving the door closed for longer periods of time.
5. Pick the carrier up and walk.
Once your cat is calm and relaxed inside the carrier, start picking it up, walk a few steps and then place the carrier down again. You’ll eventually progress to carrying him for short distances around the house. Try to keep your walk and the way that you carry the cat carrier as smooth as possible. Talking soothingly to your cat can help if the motion makes him a little anxious.
6. Into the car.
Now it’s time to get your cat into the car. If your garage is attached to your house this is relatively easy. Start with placing the carrier in your parked car, belted into position for safety. You don’t need to turn the engine on at this stage. If your car is parked in the driveway, on the street, or a distance from the house; and especially if your cat is an indoor cat you’ll gradually need to get him used to the outside world from inside the carrier – with all the new sounds and smells that come with the great outdoors. When you cat is comfortable sitting inside the carrier, inside the car it’s time for the last step.
7. Ready to go!
Turn the engine on and start driving. Start with short drives around the block to make sure your cat is comfortable with the car’s movement and sensation of being driven. Keep the windows wound up, and avoid loud music to minimise additional noise. You can gradually increase the distance you travel until you’re happy with your cat’s confidence in the car and are ready to embark on longer trips, including the vet clinic.
Your cat may never be fully happy getting in and traveling in the carrier, but if you’ve followed these steps then you should be able to avoid the tantrums, biting and scratching that some people suffer each time they try to get their cat into the carrier.