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How to Get Your Cat Into a Carrier

17 Oct 2020.

No cat likes getting in their carrier. Hiding, running away, holding on to the sides with surprising strength and even the occasional swipe of a paw can all be part of the struggle of trying to get Mr Whiskers into his box. Below, Cat in a Flat looks at the best tricks to get your kitty into their carrier stress-free. 

Get your cat to tolerate – or even like! – their cat carrier by making it part of your everyday environment 

1. Make the carrier a place your cat wants to spend time

If you have a carrier with a removable top or one that splits into two parts, you can transform the bottom into an irresistible cat den. By incorporating the carrier into your cat’s everyday life, you can take the fear out of them stepping into it when it’s time to go to the vet. Try placing a favourite blanket on the carrier bottom to tempt kitty to adopt it as a snoozing spot. To begin with, you could encourage them in with toys or treats. Before using the carrier, try putting the lid on and closing the door for a few seconds at a time. Then, reward your kitty with a treat. You could even try picking the carrier up and walking around with it for a few seconds to get kitty used to the sensation of being inside. Familiarity and treats should cement positive and unthreatening associations between Mr Whiskers and his carrier. 

Make your cat’s carrier a place they want to spend time

2. Get a carrier that works for your cat

There are dozens of carriers available – from soft shoulder bags to hard-shelled plastic boxes. Knowing what is right for you and your cat will depend on your kitty’s size and disposition but consider the following.

  • Your cat should have enough room to turn around inside the container.
  • Carriers that open at the top can make vets’ and owners’ experiences a lot more straightforward in getting kitty in and out. Many carriers either have a door at the top or unclip entirely into two parts so look out for these.
  • Your carrier should be easy to clean in case your kitty has an accident and because you will probably use it to take your cat to the vet when they are ill. It’s always advisable to line the carrier with a towel or blanket – this helps with kitty nerves and will also absorb any accidents, preventing Mr Whiskers from getting too wet and uncomfortable.
  • Basket carriers might look nice but are less convenient and hygienic than plastic carriers. They are harder to clean than hard plastic cases and the woven fibres offer a lot of places for your cat to hold on with their claws.
  • Most important of all, you’ll need a carrier that is safe and secure from which your cat cannot escape. 

If you have to store your cat carrier between uses

3. Get the cat carrier out early

Make sure to bring your cat carrier out from wherever you store it well ahead of the time you need to use it. The night or day before is ideal. Cats will be warier of something brought out of the cupboard last minute. By making the carrier part of your cat’s familiar environment, it should reduce Mr Whiskers’ worry when you carry him towards it. You could also place toys and treats in the carrier to encourage kitty to explore before trying to secure him in there. 

Getting your cat into a carrier can be a struggle

4. Prepare the cat carrier

A cat pheromone diffuser and spray such as the ones from Feliway can come in handy when getting your cat’s carrier ready. Try spraying the kitty case with Feliway 15 minutes before you need to depart. You can also drape a blanket covered in pheromone spray over the top to keep kitty calm while they’re inside. The dark created by the blanket will also make the space of the carrier feel safe. Placing a blanket that smells of home inside the carrier will also help create a sense of familiar calm for kitty, as well as keeping it cosy for the journey ahead.

5. Create a calm atmosphere

Try not to get nervous before placing kitty in their carrier. Your cat will sense that you are stressed and react accordingly – by hiding or being extremely wary of what you are doing. A cat pheromone diffuser from Feliway can also help keep kitty calm.  

6. Try placing kitty in head first

If your cat is pretty relaxed, then you can try and place them in the carrier head first. Pick your cat up with two hands – one underneath their chest and the other behind them to stop them reversing. Firmly but gently and carefully place their head and front paws in the carrier and push them in from behind. Cats are more likely to become nervous about what they can see, so you might find your kitty becomes increasingly wary of this move as time goes on. It’s essential to try and get kitty in on your first attempt to stop them getting even more stressed, so if you know this move might not work, perhaps try a different technique first.

Tip: Many cats don’t like to be picked up and carried them around. This is completely normal and as a loving cat owner, you should respect their wishes where possible. But in order to make getting them in a carrier as easy as possible, try to get your cat used to you picking him up from time to time. Make sure to reward kitty every time you pick them up with strokes, reassurance and treats. If the only time you pick your cat up is to put them in a carrier, your kitty will automatically associate it with stress and fear.

7. Try putting kitty in backwards

One trick a lot of vets recommend is moving your cat in backwards – the surprise usually makes it an easy manoeuvre. Place your arm underneath your cat from front to back under their stomach and then gently move them back into the open carrier. Vets make it look so easy, of course, but cat owners can get the hang of this move too!

8. Try placing the carrier on its end and lowering your cat in

You might find it easier to place your carrier on the floor and lower your cat in bottom first. Gravity is your invisible assistant in helping this move work. Lowering your cat into their carrier gives them less chance to hold on to the edges and catapult to freedom. Once your cat is safely secured inside, close the door and gently lower the carrier to lie flat. 

9. Cover your cat in a towel

Covering and enveloping your cat in a towel can be a neat way to put them in their carrier. Get a large towel and place it over your cat from behind or the side when they are still. Quickly and smoothly sweep them up in the towel and place it in the carrier – hopefully in one deft move! The towel is soft so as not to cause distress while protecting your arms from stray claws. 

For more tips on getting your cat into a carrier check out this video, below

We hope these tips help! But if you want to avoid the stress of putting your cat in a carrier to take them to the cattery every time you go away, try booking a cat sitter. Cat carers will look after your furry friend in the comfort of their home, removing the anxiety of cat care from your holiday planning for both you and Mr Whiskers.

For more tips on cat care, including how to move house with your kitty, how to stop Mr Whiskers scratching the furniture, or tips on whether you should bath your furry friend, read more on the Cat in a Flat blog. 

  • Cat Care
  • cat carrier
  • cat tips
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