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How To Get Your Cat Into a Pet Carrier

How To Get Your Cat Into a Pet Carrier

Today, we're talking about a common issue many cat guardians face: getting your cat to love their carrier. Contrary to popular belief, your cat doesn't have to hate the carrier! With a few simple steps, you can transform the carrier into a place your cat actually enjoys. Let's dive in!

Why Cats Hate Their Carriers

Imagine this scenario: Your family has two identical station wagons, one red and one green. The red one is used for everyday activities, while the green one is only used for trips to the dentist. Over time, you develop an irrational fear of green station wagons. This is similar to how your cat feels about their carrier—they associate it with unpleasant trips to the vet. The key is to change this association!

How to Get Your Cat to Like Their Carrier

Step 1: Make the Carrier Appealing to Your Cat

The first step is to make the carrier not look like a carrier. Most carriers can be taken apart, so start by removing the top of the carrier and making the bottom as inviting as possible. Place a small, comfortable bed that your cat loves inside the carrier, or line the carrier with a sweatshirt that smells like you. Cats find comfort in familiar scents and they will start to identify the carrier as their territory.

Step 2: Place Your Cat's Carrier in a Social Area

Position the carrier in a place where your cat likes to hang out, such as near the couch or your bed. This makes the carrier part of their everyday environment.

Step 3: Use High-Value Treats to Entice Your Cat

Introduce treats that your cat absolutely loves, which I call "jackpot treats." Give these treats to your cat only when they are inside the carrier. This creates a positive association with being in the carrier. Once you’ve established a ritual of treat time in the carrier, move onto the next step.

Step 4: Gradually Reassemble Your Cat's Carrier

Now that your cat is comfortable using the carrier base, reattach the top—just not in their presence! Continue to reward your cat with treats while they use the carrier with the top on. This helps them get used to the idea that the carrier is still their safe, cozy space, just with a roof.

Step 5: Add the Door to Your Cat's Carrier

The door can be a bit tricky since the sound of it can be a trigger for some cats. One way to slowly acclimate your cat to the door is to start by taping the door open to prevent it from swinging and startling them. Gradually work up to closing the door briefly, always rewarding your cat immediately afterward.

Step 6: Practice Picking up Your Cat's Carrier

Next, pick up the carrier briefly and then put it down again, rewarding your cat each time. This helps them get used to the movement without associating it with a trip to the vet.

Additional Tips for Getting Your Cat Used to Their Carrier

The goal is to have your cat go into the carrier 99 times out of 100 without it leading to a vet visit. This way, the carrier becomes a familiar and safe place rather than something to dread. In the event of an emergency, like an earthquake, your cat will likely run to the carrier for safety.

Just like litter boxes, you need enough carriers for your cats. Ideally, have one carrier per cat to ensure each one has their own safe space. The carrier should be well-made and big enough for them to lay down comfortably. 

By following these steps, you can transform the carrier from your cat’s worst nightmare into their favorite cocoon! This makes trips to the vet and other travels much less stressful for both you and your cat.

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