Can I Make My Cat Less Afraid of the Cat Carrier?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, discusses ways to help your cat to like cat carriers.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: August 19, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: How can I make my cat less afraid of the cat carrier?

A: I get asked this question frequently, particularly during the summer and holiday traveling seasons. One of my clients frequently travels and likes to bring Hilda, her adorable tuxedo cat, with her. Hilda has three separate carrier choices depending on the trip. She has a Sherpa bag to take her to the cat vet, a top-loading plastic cat carrier for car travel and a special airline cat carrier for flying the friendly skies. Needless to say Hilda is a well-traveled cat.

Hilda’s example aside, there is no guaranteed way to make your wonderful cat believe the carrier is her friend, particularly if it only takes her to the vet’s office — but I have learned a few tricks in my years as a cat sitter I am happy to share.

Cats do not like confined spaces, so choose a cat carrier that is large enough for your cat to stand up in and turn around in. I think a carrier with the door on the top makes for the least amount of stress in getting your cat inside and out. Putting comfortable bedding inside and a few favorite toys will make it more tolerable. Please make sure your cat carrier has good ventilation and a secure latch!  

If you have the room in your home to make the cat carrier a normal part of the environment, this might help with “carrier fear.” I cured one of my cats of it by placing her carrier in a quiet, tucked away spot with the door open. I had bedding inside with toys and some fresh catnip. One day later I found her happily snoozing inside. This procedure can also be a good plan a few days prior to actually needing the cat carrier for travel. Also, don’t make a big production of placing her inside. Cats are very attuned to your mood, so remain calm and casual.

You might try taking your cat on a short trip that doesn’t end up at the cat vet. When you return home give her plenty of praise and treats — and remember patience is key. As always, I welcome your comments and stories.

Visit my website, and please follow me on Twitter for my daily cat tip.

See more articles by Jeanne Adlon>>


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Reader Comments

m    Lake City, FL

12/16/2012 11:48:37 PM

Great important article, and great suggestions!
Personally, I spent an entire morning getting our 1 kitty to become more comfortable with her carrier- I put her in- she fussed, I petted her, gave her treats, let her out for a while, repeated once, and then just left it there with the door open.
Shortly after it became an item that only comes in the house when its getting used; but she will still be put in it without fussing- now if only she wouldn't leave the room when she spots it, or stop crying once she's in it- any tips on that?

Marie    Hayward, CA

11/4/2011 9:11:07 PM

TRY A BIGGER CARRIER: I once had a normal size kitty at 7 lbs. She became hysterical when she was put into a normal size, front loading, cat carrier. She spun around like a top! I had an idea that perhaps she couldn't handle the confined space; so I got a much bigger carrier, one you might use for a medium or small dog, it still had the handle on top, just bigger. That did the trick; there was never a problem after that. My little cat sat quietly in the back of the nice big carrier. The carrier was way too big for a cat but it made her happy. I have used this trick on any cat who hates carriers since then and it has worked on every cat.

Cathy    Hubbard, OH

8/25/2011 5:42:02 AM

Great tips!

Shirley    Tucson, AZ

8/24/2011 4:13:20 AM

Good tips. Thank you.

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