Unlike dogs who get excited when you clip their lead onto their collar no matter where they are going, it isn’t always very easy to take a cat anywhere.
But it is essential that you can transport them when the time comes, whether it be going to the vets or cattery, or for something a bit more fun. In order to do this, a carrier will likely be needed.
Many cats are independent and don’t like doing things that are out of their comfort zone. This can spell trouble when you need them to cooperate the most.
Before you buy a cat carrier
There are a few different types of carrier out there, from hard plastic or soft fabric builds to traditional carry handle models, rucksacks and even strollers. Think about your particular cat’s personality and choose the best option for their comfortability
Think about design
Will they be likely to get into the carrier themselves? A side opening is good in this case. Maybe they will need gently lowered in? Top-loading models are probably the best bet.
If they always seem nervous about being covered, buy one which the entire sides can be folded down, so they feel like they are being lowered onto a normal tray before each side can be brought up on its own rather than the top half being lowered above them
Purchase the carrier months before their fist essential outing so you have time to follow the tips below. Trying to train your cat within a few hours is not going to help in the long run
Getting your cat used to their carrier
Do not expect to buy a carrier one day and find them jumping into it within the hour. Getting a cat used to this new environment, especially if they are nervous, takes time, patience and practice.
When you first get the carrier, leave it out somewhere you know they will feel comfortable exploring. If in a comfortable place, they will associate it with good experiences early on.
Don’t force your cat into a carrier minutes before a trip to the vets – always prepare for the inevitable day they go in good time
You may want to turn it into a bit of a den at first. Put their toys and food inside so they feel like they have a purpose in going into the carrier. Take their favourite food, such as chicken pieces, and place it inside. Only give them this food from the carrier, so they associate having to go into the carrier to get the food. They won’t be as responsive if they also know they will get it when they sit on your lap.
You could also try placing their favourite blanket in there, or a jumper of yours, so they get used to the scent. This can be comforting to them.
How can I get my cat into a carrier?
Some will not mind at all, even going in of their own accord. Others will fight and claw to the extremes. After the acclimatisation process is the need for the carrier to be used, and if they don’t walk in themselves, you will need to use a fool-proof method:
Position the carrier
Top-loading carriers are easier to work with, but if you only have a side or door carrier, place it on its side with the opening facing towards the ceiling. You can put it against a wall or solid surface to prevent it from tipping, or have someone help
Pick up your cat
This is a very important technique. Wrap one arm around the chest and use the other to support their back end. They should be facing away from you, and keep their back legs relatively constrained
Slowly lower your cat into the carrier
Don’t make any sudden movements. Lowering your cat back end first will ensure they feel less like they are being forced. Holding their back legs will make them less likely to push or kick as they are lowered. This makes your job easier and them less likely to be injured
Take your time
If they struggle, leave them to calm down a bit, even if this means that they run upstairs for a breather
Close the door and place upright
When your cat is safely in, close the door. Never push the door as to trap them there. Put the carrier back down flat if needed, then lock the door. This is a good time to treat your cat
Cover the carrier if needed
This can help your cat to feel snugger and block out the outside world, and also reduce the likelihood of motion sickness. This isn’t always appropriate though, especially for cats who love to see out. Covers can reinforce the idea that a carrier is a place of comfort and safety, and can reduce motion sickness in moving vehicles
I am still finding it impossible!
There are cat carriers out there which basically fold right down to just the base, specifically designed to help nervous cats.
The sides effectively fold away so you can position your cat, before raising them again. This is a lot less nerve-wracking than placing them into a deep dark box, and you can often make the process slower too. Check out our reviews to find the cat carrier we think is best for nervous cats.
There are some alternatives too, such as cat backpacks or harnesses, but these won’t be for every cat, especially if yours is unsure about new things and being taken places.