How to safely get your cat in a Carrier

Expert Help Getting Your Cat Into A Carrier

Kitty hiding under bed once he sees cat carrier

 The Dreaded Cat Carrier.  For many cats, the carrier is a scary place. Usually the only time a cat needs to be inside one of these portable kennels is to go to a strange place – the veterinarian, the groomer, moving to a new home, or even to go live with a new family. Because of negative experiences, many cats hate being in carriers. They lash out at their owner when being forced into the carrier, they stress out while inside it, they may even go to the bathroom due to being uncomfortable in the small space. However, the carrier doesn’t have to be a cause of stress for any cat. This article will discuss the importance of cat carriers, the different types of carriers, how to introduce a cat to a carrier, and how you can get them inside the carrier safely.


Your Cat’s Safety

 It is very important for a pet owner to be able to get their cat into a carrier quickly, easily and without causing undue stress to the cat. Many cat owners have expressed that their cats are more comfortable being held, wrapped in a blanket, or without any confinement during car rides, vet visits and grooming appointments. While this may be comforting to the cat, it creates a very dangerous situation where the cat is vulnerable to injury or escape. Carriers keep the cat from jumping from their owner’s arms if they are spooked by a dog barking, a car horn, or any number of sudden noises. Chasing cats down major roads, through neighbor backyards and even under houses creates a dangerous situation. Keeping your cat safe and protected inside a carrier prevents any of these situations from occurring.


Types of Cat Carriers

 There are a number of different cat carriers to choose from, starting with the first and more traditional carrier: the hard-sided kennel. This type of carrier is usually the most ideal for transporting a cat. It protects a cat from other animals, the environment and keeps them safe and secure. A hard-sided carrier that has a front and top opening, and can be disassembled quickly and easily is the ideal carrier for safety and space. This style provides multiple ways to get the cat in and out of the carrier quickly and easily.

Hard cat carrier - safe and easy to clean


Soft- or fabric-sided kennels are a common type of carrier for cats and small dogs. Some styles easily collapse for storage and usually have mesh sides for the cat to see its surroundings. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing this type of carrier. The bottom of the carrier should be firm and be able to support the weight of the cat without bending or bowing. A feisty cat will be able to scratch and bite through the mesh, as well as if a dog is set on attempting to bite a cat in this carrier, the mesh will not offer protection to the cat. Getting a nervous or angry cat into this type of carrier can be difficult, as the sides may droop when unzipped.


Another version of the soft-sided kennel is the pet tent. While these are more spacious, giving the cat more room to walk around and have access to food, water and a litter box, these are not ideal to transport a cat during short trips. The disadvantages are again due to the mesh sides and unsupported frame of the carrier. However, these carriers can be great for longer car rides to provide a space for the cat’s litter box during stops along the trip.


Make-shift carriers can include laundry baskets, cardboard boxes and pillow cases. While it may seem easier to get them into a more open container, none of these make-shift carriers offer the cat any protection or support. They should only be considered in an emergency or for an injured animal if there is no carrier available.


Choosing the Best Carrier Style For Your Cat

 When choosing a carrier for your cat, keep in mind the cat’s size and needs. The carrier should be large enough for the cat to stand up and turn around comfortably. If going on a longer trip, the cat needs to have access to food, water and a litter box. It is also important for the carrier to be disassembled and able to be cleaned easily. It is not uncommon for cats to have accidents while in their carrier, so keep in mind how to clean this space thoroughly.


Once you have chosen a carrier that fits your cat and your needs, the next step is to help the cat feel comfortable being inside the carrier. Cats usually dislike carriers because they rarely go inside and only to go to strange places. It is our job as cat owners to present the carrier as a safe place for our cats. Start by leaving the carrier out in a main living space, with the doors open for at least a few days. The cat will be able to explore the carrier at his or her own pace without any scary feelings associated with it. Putting treats and a towel with your smell on it inside the carrier during this time will also help the cat to associate positive feelings with the carrier. Next, it is time for a few “test runs.” Once the cat is standing inside the carrier eating treats, close the door. Slowly bring the cat outside to the car while speaking softly and reassuringly. Take a short drive around the block, then bring them back home and give them a few treats. Do this a few times over the course of a few weeks until your cat seems to be more at ease during the car ride. Make sure to speak in an upbeat and reassuring voice, not apologetic and nervous. Cats will be able to feel and react to their owner’s mood and energy level.


The night before a veterinarian or grooming appointment, set the carrier out in the main room of your house so your cat has a chance to sniff and explore the carrier with plenty of time.  At least an hour before it is time to leave, put the cat and the carrier in a small space like a bathroom. This prevents the cat from hiding, making it easier to put the cat in the carrier quickly and without stress for the cat.


Carriers that open from the top can be easiest to place a cat inside if the cat is hesitant or fights to go through the side or front opening. If the carrier you are using doesn’t have a top opening, tilt the carrier on its side and lower the cat down into the carrier rear-end first. Close the door and slowly lower the carrier back to being right-side up.  You might also want to solicit the help of a family member or friend your cat is acquainted with.


A large, thick towel can also be used to drape over and pick up a cat who is nervous or trying to lash out with sharp nails or teeth. 


Kitty near carrier at Cat’s Meow Resort

Every time you return from a trip using the carrier, make sure to give your cat extra love and treats as a reward. Over time, the cat will see the carrier as a safe and comfortable place. While the carrier provides this safe place for routine visits to the vet, groomer, moving homes, etc. it also gives the cat a sense of security if during a time of emergency or natural disaster. Spending the extra time showing your cat that the carrier is not scary, will help not only you and the cat, but also the pet professionals when visiting them!

 We have a similar blog highlighting your kitties first trip to the groomer. Check it out here.

Please feel free to contact Cat’s Meow Resort at 860-404-5841 with any questions.


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