Oh, the dreaded cat carrier. Nothing says "scatter" like pulling that odious contraption out of the closet. Cat carriers, commonly employed by humans to take their feline faves to the vet, inspire amazing feats of acrobatic avoidance. As any cat’s roommate will tell you, trying to get a cat to do something they don’t want to do is nearly impossible. That being said, cats can be trained to use the carrier, it just takes time and a lot of patience.
Having the right cat carrier is the first step in getting your cat to use it. Before you begin the training process, explore some of the carrier options. Are you planning to go short or long distances? If your cat is a registered support animal, he might be traveling with you a lot. Are you planning a plane trip? Do you just need to get to and from the vet? Do you and your cat enjoy going on walks together through the neighborhood? Your choice of carrier will depend on your answers to these questions, and there are so many types of carriers to choose from. Hardshell carriers, like those you would use for longer trips or plane rides, soft carriers and carrier bags, or even backpacks your cat can ride in and get a glimpse of the great outdoors.
Since travel for cats tends to be a stressful situation, the cat carrier should be a safe and comfortable place. A cat carrier that is too small doesn’t give your cat the room to shift his position or move around. This confinement may add to his anxiety. If you travel a lot with your cat, or are planning to go on a road trip, make sure that your cat carrier has enough space to fit a food and water dish.
On the flip side, a cat carrier that is too large can be dangerous. Goldie Locks was onto something: it is important to get a carrier that is just right. Also important: have one cat carrier per cat in the household. It is not a good idea to place more than one cat in the carrier at a time. For each of your cats; comfort and safety, make sure they have their own carrier.
Since your cat may have some pretty strong negative associations toward the cat carrier, it is important to create opportunities for your kitty to explore it on his own terms. If you have a kitten who has never even seen a cat carrier before, this is particularly important. Leave the carrier out for at least a few days before you plan to use it. Give your cat time to go in and out on his own. If your cat avoids it like the plague, take the door or lid off. It can also be helpful to put something comforting inside, like a blanket, small bed or towel that smells fresh and clean. Once you see your cat is starting to get comfortable, add the lid back on. By allowing your cat to take the lead, the carrier becomes a cozy spot instead of a cold, hard mode of transportation.
Bribe your cat with his favorite snack. Seriously, pull out the big guns. What is your cat’s all-time favorite treat? From now on, that is going to be the carrier treat. According to Jackson Galaxy, cat behaviorist, using a treat every time your cat goes in the carrier will help build some pretty strong positive associations.
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