We realize that many cat owners don’t want to take their cat to the vet because the process might be stressful for the cat. Much of this stress is brought about by the cat not being trained to be happy and content while in a carrier.
For some cats, seeing the carrier is a sign that something is about to happen. For other cats, who have been trained to be happy in a carrier, there is no stress at all. It’s all about being trained to be comfortable in the carriers. The first step in training your cat is to create positive associations for your cat with the carrier, which will then make your trips to the vet smooth and happy. Here’s a 10-step guide on how you can accomplish this.
Kittens usually adjust to new experiences and surroundings more easily than adult or senior cats, so start the carrier-training process as early as possible. And, don’t worry if your cat is older as adult and senior cats can still learn to feel safe and secure in a carrier.
Many cats only see the carrier when it’s time to go somewhere, so they begin to feel anxious as soon as the carrier appears. Instead, keep the carrier on the floor and open at all times so that your cat can come and go as he pleases and won’t see the carrier as a place where he gets trapped. Be patient. It might be days or even weeks before the cat feels comfortable enough to explore the carrier.
Place some comfy bedding in it and toss in a few treats and your cat’s favorite toys or some catnip when you first set it up. Replenish the supply every few days.
If your cat will eat inside the carrier, start feeding him there daily. If he won’t, put his food dish a few feet away and move it an inch or two closer to the carrier each day. Just make sure your cat keeps eating! If he stops, move the food a little farther away and then move it closer more slowly. Some extra smart cats won’t enter the carrier with you standing nearby — they think you’ll lock them in — so move away and watch discreetly from across the room.
We know what you’re thinking! That can’t be done! But it is possible, and even easy when we take our time and be patient with our training. Once he’s confident enough to go into the carrier to eat, start calling your cat over to it for a treat. Toss the treat in the carrier and when your cat goes in, say “in.” Praise him for as long as he’s in the carrier. When he comes out, toss in another treat and repeat. Over time, you can start saying “in” first and your cat should go into the carrier on his own. Be sure to give him a treat after he does and while he’s still in the carrier. By doing so, you’ll be associating all your cat’s favorite things — playing, learning, treats and you — with the carrier, while showing him it’s not only safe but fun.
Repeat the above process, but start closing the door and locking it before giving your cat a treat. Once he’s eaten the treat, open the door, let him come out and repeat. Gradually increase the amount of time the door stays shut. If your cat is calm while the door is shut, give him more treats. If he seems upset or tries to get out, do not give him a treat and try again at another time with less time in the carrier.
After your cat learns that a closed carrier door is okay, try picking up the carrier with him in it and putting it back down gently. Add this to your training routine.
Once you’re able to pick up the carrier with your cat remaining calm inside, take a few steps and then gently put the carrier back down, reward him and then let him out.
You don’t have to go far. At first, just outside your front door and back inside could be far enough. The key is to make sure your cat remains calm while you repeat this. Over time, gradually increase your distance.
Keep practicing until you’re able to walk all the way around the block with your cat calm in the carrier. Once you can do this, you’ll know your cat’s fear of the carrier has been conquered!
Despite your best efforts, your cat may never enjoy being in his carrier and that’s okay. While your cat may not like the carrier, he should learn that it’s a safe place. And whenever you bring your cat to the vet, he should always be brought in a carrier for his safety as much as much as for yours.
And remember, the carrier-training process takes time and patience. The above steps won’t be accomplished in a day, a week or even a month necessarily. But even incremental progress can help reduce the stress your cat feels, in turn reducing the stress you feel.