Cat in carrier box on floor at home

How to Get a Cat in a Carrier: Tips and Step-By-Step Instructions

Anant Shastri
By Anant Shastri
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Why Do Cats Not Like Carriers?

Why Do Cats Not Like Carriers

Despite the fact that cats love small-space cardboard boxes, they absolutely hate cat carriers. So, wondering how to get a cat in a carrier?

Well, first you need to understand why cats hate carriers. This is mainly because when they see a pet carrier, they are sure that something bad is about to happen (vet visits, health checkups, travel, etc).

This is the main reason why most cats hate carriers. As a result, it is important for cat owners to create positive associations and positive reinforcements with their cats. This can be done by using some creative techniques using catnip, cat treats, cat food, a clicker, and their favorite toys.

It is true that cat carriers are mainly used for taking your cat to the vet. However, it can be a struggle to get your cat to enter into one stress-free. It is common for unwilling cats to become aggressive before they even reach the front door of the carrier as in their minds, it is not a safe place for them. Additionally, even if you are just going for a car ride, your might go into hiding after seeing the carrier.

How do I Acclimate My Cat to a Carrier?

Often, the type of carrier can make it easier for you to acclimate your cat to the box. For instance, many pet parents prefer top-loading carriers because of the ease of use.

Additionally, some pet parents might even use ingredients such as Feliway to help ease the process of putting their cat into the carrier. Feliway is based on a chemical that cats emit from glands on their faces. This pheromone gives your cats a feeling of calm and helps relieve anxiety and stress.

If wondering how to get a cat in a carrier start by acclimating. Let us look at some of the steps to acclimatize your cat to a cat carrier:

  • Wash the Carrier. Before your trip, make sure you wash the carrier to remove any suspicious scents that might be trapped inside it. It should be dry and should not contain any musty or chemical smells to make the process easier.
  • Display the Carrier. Made sure that you place the carrier in plain sight, within your cat’s reach. Leave the door open so that they get a chance to explore it.
  • Use a Blanket. Use a blanket, towel, or bedspread, preferably one that has your cat’s scent inside the carrier. This will make the carrier more inviting and familiar to your cat.
  • Toys and Treats. Place your kitty’s favorite toys and favorite treats inside or on top of the carrier so that they are forced to explore it.
  • Food and Water Bowl. Place your cat’s food and water bowls next to the carrier. As the cat becomes more comfortable with the carrier’s presence, you can then try to move the dishes inside.

How do You Get an Uncooperative Cat into a Carrier?

How do You Get an Uncooperative Cat into a Carrier

Now that you know how to get a cat in a carrier, it is time to explain what to do with an uncooperative feline. Namely, if your cat is still adamant about not entering the carrier, you can use what is popularly called the Purrito technique:

  1. Place the carrier on its end with the door pointing toward the ceiling. Make sure that the door is open.
  2. Next, cover your cat with a towel, gently picking her up and wrapping the towel around her. Make sure that it is tight enough to confine her limbs. However, you should keep watch so that it will not restrict their breathing.
  3. Finally, lower the towel-wrapped cat into the carrier and shut the door. You do not have to worry about removing the towel as your cat will easily find its way out of it.

How do I Keep My Cat Calm in a Carrier?

While you can surely trick your cat to get into a carrier, it is a different process to make sure that they are calm inside it. Let us look at the steps to see how to keep them calm –

  • Pheromone Spray. You can spray a towel or blanket with a synthetic cat pheromone spray. This can mimic natural scents that your cat will find calming and relaxing. It can also help make the carrier smell more familiar.
  • Short Car Rides. Many vets often recommend that you take short car rides with your cat in the weeks leading up to her vet appointment.
  • Stay in Sight. During the entire time your cat is in the carrier, make sure that they can see you from within it. You can talk to them in soft tones and reassure them to help relax them during the trip.
  • Anti-Anxiety Meds. In the worst case that none of these tips work, you can ask your vet to prescribe your cat medications that are designed to ease anxiety in your cat. They act as mild sedatives and can help relax your cat before every vet visit.

How Long does it Take for a Cat to Get Used to a Carrier?

How Long does it Take for a Cat to Get Used to a Carrier

It can take from a few hours to several weeks to get your cat used to their carrier. It is crucial to understand that getting them to enter a carrier is a step-by-step process and requires training.

If your cat has had any negative experience that is associated with the carrier, you can purchase a brand new one to minimize this negative association. Just ensure that the carrier is a bit large and spacious for your cat to stretch out if required.

If your carrier has been used by some other cat, you need to wash it as it can contain pheromones of anxiety or fear deposited from the pads of their feet/anal glands. These pheromones can otherwise create a hostile environment for your cat.

Finally, never use a carrier with multiple cats except when it is a mother with her litter. This is because a confined space can lead to fights that could even lead to injuries. If you have multiple cats, make sure they have their own individual carriers.

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