A Favorite Place Instead of a Feared Place
As cat people, many of us have had the experience of our cat running and hiding as soon as they see or hear the carrier coming out of the closet. Then, after 30 or more minutes of trying to get the kitty from under the bed, we try to put them in the carrier as legs are sprawling, nails are clawing and fur is flying. This whole process is a very difficult and stressful situation for both owner and cat. This does not have to be your reality any longer. If you do the following steps you can make the carrier one of your cat’s favorite places instead of a feared place.
Some Simple Tips on Helping Your Cat Learn to Love the Carrier!
CLICK HERE for our favorite carriers
Step One: Take It Out of the Closet
Every day people are spending $30 to $300 or more on cat furniture or condos. Why not take the carrier out from storage and make it into a cozy home for your kitty? If the carrier is left out, it likely will become a wonderful den for them to sleep in. Now it won’t be a stressful container that they are forced into once a year. If your cat is already afraid of the carrier, then you will need to desensitize them to it. This may be a slow process, but will be well worth your effort.
Step Two: Think Comfort
Who wants to sleep on hard, cold plastic? Make the carrier as comfy and cozy as possible to attract your kitty. Choose a blanket or pillow that your cat loves to nap on and place it in the carrier.
The blankets can be sprayed with Feliway to help the transition. Feliway is a synthetic copy of a feline facial pheromone that is calming to cats, but we cannot smell it. Apply 30 minutes before introducing the cat so the alcohol carrying agent can fully evaporate.
Step Three: Make it Accessible but Safe
Place the carrier in a spot where the kitty already spends a lot of time. To start, try removing the cover and placing the blanket on the carrier floor. A sunny and warm spot is ideal, where the carrier is stable and will not slip, tip or fall.
Once they become comfortable with the cover off, try putting the cover back in place. Many cats love hiding under blankets or in dark places. Place another soft or fuzzy blanket on top of the carrier to cover all but the front entrance.
Now they have the option of retreating into the quiet carrier or perching on top to survey their territory. If you have multiple cats and multiple carriers, ideally they would all be out and part of your cats’ everyday lives. The more comfortable they are with the carrier at home, the better they will tolerate their trips to the vet.
Step Four: Reward, Reward, Reward
Once your cat has shown interest in the carrier, start offering treats as they approach the carrier. Then place treats inside the carrier to entice them to enter. You can offer meals inside, to encourage positive regard for the carrier.
If food does not motivate your kitty, you can use a favorite toy to lure them in. Remember to praise each approach and entrance with a gentle ‘good kitty,’ and some pats or scratches behind the ears.
Step Five: The Vet Visit
When it is time to bring your cat to the vet, it shouldn’t be nearly as difficult to get them into the carrier. Use the blanket that is already on the carrier, covering the entrance as well, to carry them to the car and from the car to the vet office.
Many cats do not travel well. Limiting visual stimuli may decrease their anxiety. Cats are only able to see a small portion out the window with trees, vehicles and buildings flying past. Placing the blanket over the carrier creates the comfy den that they are used to at home.
Then once you arrive at the vet clinic, the staff can use the blanket to cover the exam table. This way, kitty doesn’t have to step on a cold, hard surface but one that is soft and smells like home. When the exam is over, return the kitty into the carrier and put the cover back on (covering the entire carrier).