How to Get Your Cat in its Carrier

How to Get Your Cat in its Carrier

Posted by Susan Smith on on 8th Feb 2022

It's no secret that most cats like their environment just the way it is. They have explored it, dominated it and understood it. Imported distractions or changes to daily life can be very upsetting to them. Whether they accept these new and strange crates or carriers depends on how they are introduced and whether your cat will accept them. The question is, how do you get your cat in its carrier? The answer is very carefully and with a trick or two.

Cats are contortion artists and can stretch to all sorts of positions. And, of course, there are the teeth and claws which every cat owner knows will be used when their cat feels threatened or uncomfortable. Although many cats are laid back and trusting, there are those who resist any coercing by their owners to encourage them to cooperate on anything.

Why would you need a carrier for your cat?
Every cat must travel to the veterinarian for checkups or when issues arise and they need to be protected when exposed to other animals or strangers. Additionally, every cat who is traveling needs to do so in an airline-compliant pet carrier or crate.

How do I start?
The first step is to decide whether your cat should be in a hard-sided crate or soft-sided carrier. Generally, the more upset your cat will be during its trip, the more you should decide on a pet crate. Cats can be pretty destructive with their claws when upset and a premanufactured plastic pet crate might be the better choice. The door opening should be in the front. and the door should have a spring lock so your clever kitty has no chance to escape. Don't forget the pet pad in case vengeance calls for a good pee. If a pet carrier is your choice, get one with both side and top openings and heavy netting for ventilation. The carrier should be made with heavy fabric and have zippers (no snaps). Some carriers have privacy coverings for less exposure. in any case, measure your cat before getting it a crate or carrier. Putting a cat in a carrier that is too small for it will not lead to a comfortable or happy kitty. 

Get your crate or carrier early and acclimate your cat to it. Put it in a place where your cat frequents, open it up and leave it alone so your cat will find it in its own time. This is the most important part of creating happiness on travel day. The carrier should be your cat's safe place and it will take some time to develop that relationship.

Related: Acclimating your cat to its crate or carrier.

The Elastic Cat
If you got your cat as a kitten and spent the time to handle it in lots of positions, carry it on your shoulder and introduce it to all of your friends, then likely, your cat will allow you to hold it in an upright position under the forearms with one hand while holding its lower legs in your other hand. After a bit of loving, you can slowly lower your cat into the carrier while holding onto its rear legs until your cat is sitting on the bottom of the carrier. Then, quick as a flash, you will zip the carrier closed. Voila - all done and you are the lucky cat owner.

The Foodie Cat
Another way to get a cat in its carrier is through rewarding desirable behavior. If your kitty loves treats, use them to coax them into the carrier through the side or front door while the carrier is on the floor or on a wide table or counter. Don't shut the door in the beginning; leave the door open and allow your cat to explore its new "mobile home." Don't act like you are short on time; your kitty will sense the endgame and likely bolt for a known secure place. Just act like you don't care whether they take to the carrier or not; but if they go in, they will get a treat. You know your kitty is ready when you catch them sleeping in the carrier. Once expectations are established, then it will be easier to get your cat in its carrier when it matters. It's a game, just don't overdo the treats. Small pieces of cooked chicken or tuna should do the trick.

The Alpha Cat
In the case that you have a very timid, stubborn or alpha cat that you know will cause you the utmost of difficulty, then a bit of preparation is in order. If your cat is an outdoor cat or one that hides a lot, put it in a room with few places to hide (the bathroom perhaps?) for a few hours or overnight so it will be happy to see you. Bring in the carrier and a pillowcase and put them on the floor. Sit on the floor and wait for your kitty to come to you. Relax it with some stroking before opening the pillowcase. Hopefully, your cat will peek in the pillowcase on its own looking thinking it is a place to hide. If not, then you will need to move quickly. Once inside the pillowcase, hold it closed, lower kitty and the pillowcase in the carrier hindquarters first. Once inside, zip up the opening. Leave the pillowcase in the carrier; your cat will find its way out. Congratulations - a challenge solved.

Whatever your choice, don't do anything at the last minute.  All good things take time and practice. The more time you have to deal with any anxiety your cat may have with this new activity, the better.