The process of getting your cat into a car carrier can be difficult, particularly when the carrier is associated with a trip to the boarding facility or vet. A few easy hints will help make this less stressful for everyone concerned.
It’s not surprising that most cats learn to fear the cat carrier. It always seems to be associated with a trip in the car and that car trip often ends at the vet clinic. Understanding why cats dislike their carrier and improving the smell and associations with the carrier can go some way towards getting them in without the claws coming out.
What Are They Worried About?
Cats are creatures of habit and do not like to be taken away from their routine and home environment. Car travel upsets their delicate sense of balance. Who would like whizzing along with that sensation of movement, while staying stationary yourself? A car and a vet clinic can also be very noisy and the smell of strange dogs and other cats.
Cats are very smell-oriented, their sense of smell is around 14 times more sensitive than ours. You can use this to your advantage by making the carrier smell more familiar, and less like that last trip to the vet. Ensure you give the cat carrier a good scrub and rinse with hot water and do not use any cleaning products, they don’t smell nice to cats.
You can also spray the cat pheromone Feliway into the carrier 15 minutes before placing your cat inside. A towel your cat has slept on will also help to make the carrier more familiar and comforting.
Desensitising Your Cat
Prior to your planned trip, leave the carrier out so your cat can explore it. Cats are naturally curious, and many love to explore small spaces such as boxes. If you put treats in there, a familiar smelling towel or bed, or even feed your cat inside the carrier you can enhance that positive association. This is all best done a couple of weeks in advance.
Steps to Get Your Cat in a Car Carrier Safely
- Place a towel, preferably one that your cat has slept on inside the carrier in case there are any accidents.
- Open the carrier and place it on its end if it is a front-opening design.
- Pick your cat up, holding onto his back feet with one hand, the other hand goes to his chest.
- Place him in backward so he can’t see where he is going.
- If your cat really struggles with this, you can quickly bundle him up in a thick towel, so he can’t scratch.
- Voila! One cat in a carrier. Now, cover it with a towel or pillowcase to make it seem even safer and snug (unless it’s a very hot day).
General Transport Tips
- Avoid feeding your pet for at least an hour prior to travel to reduce the risk of nausea and travel sickness.
- Cover the carrier so your cat can’t see things zipping past as the carrier moves.
- Try to avoid placing your cat carrier on the ground when there are dogs around.
- Consider taking some very short trips in the car, just up the driveway and back. Then take your cat inside and give him a tasty treat.
- Check out our guide on traveling with your cat for additional information.
Buying a New Cat Car Carrier
If you are buying a new carrier, consider using one that can be opened from the top as well as from the front. Some carriers split in half, so that the top comes off, which can be excellent for those cats that refuse to come out once they arrive at their destination. Your cat may actually be more comfortable being examined by a veterinarian while still in the carrier, and these carriers will allow this. If your cat is quite heavy, there are carriers available that have wheels, or you can place the carrier on a folding luggage trolley to wheel him along.
- Get the carrier out well in advance.
- Place something that smells like your cat inside or some Feliway.
- Put your cat in backward.
- Cover the carrier.
We hope these hints will help make the process of getting your cat into a cat carrier much simpler and less stressful for you and your cat. You can also view the following video for more hints.