How to Get Your Cat into the Carrier

by Melissa R. on July 26, 2012

Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

I think we may have all been there… Desperately trying to shove one’s beloved cat into a carrier in a mad rush to get to the veterinarian in time because you didn’t realize it would take an hour to do this? Yep, me, too.

One of our cats LOVES the carrier. We put it out, and she hops right in it waiting to go somewhere. I think this is because as a very young kitten, she made frequent trips to the vet for a variety of issues. So, she was just used to it.

Our other two cats well… It’s not pleasant. The oldest is the WORST. Just try cramming 15 lbs of black furry claws-out madness into a crate and see what’s left of you! I’m not sure there is any “Good” way to get a cat that doesn’t want to get in the crate, so instead, train them ahead of time!

This cat actually DOES like the carrier

This cat actually DOES like the carrier


Here are a few tips, we probably can all use them:

  1. Put the crate out several days before it is needed and start putting treats in it so it is a HAPPY PLACE. Maybe even douse it with Catnip so it’s even more fun and a good time! This will help your cat get comfortable with the crate and associate with good things.
  2. Test it out. When your cat is in the crate, eating teats maybe, seems happy. Shut the door, and give more treats! Make sure your cat stays happy and doesn’t get stressed out. At the first signs of stress, open the door so they can exit.
  3. Always make the crate a place of happiness and calm.
  4. Once your cat can settle in the crate for a few minutes with the door shut, try picking it up. Reward again with treats.
  5. Keep doing all of this repeatedly, and after a while, it won’t be so stressful for your cat.
  6. Next, try putting the crate in the car. Do this carefully and slowly so your cat doesn’t get stressed out. At the first signs of stress, return to the home, and let your cat relax. You never want the crate to be a stressful place.

By doing all of this, hopefully your cat will associate the crate with happiness, rather than stress, and make trips to the vet more comfortable for everyone.

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About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the DrsFosterSmith.com and LiveAquaria.com websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosemary July 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Another way to get your cats used to a crate is by feeding them in it every meal. Even the kitties who don’t eat in them are comfortable in and around them, and frequently nap in them.

If you’re in a hurry, and don’t have time to train them, and you need to get them in NOW, the trick I use helps. Put the carrier (I use the plastic airline kennels) against a wall, open the door, and put the cat in tail first. You can just gently push Kitty backwards into the carrier, and shut the door. About the only cat this won’t work with is a true feral.

Katherine (Kat) August 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm

This is an excellent article. I have to deal with this in different ways with many cats of different personalities. (I have 9 cats).

Of the 9, 4 of them have been born and raised by me and are very used to carriers, and will run right in them when I get them out. Part of it is trust, I think, and the other few reasons are that two of them were even trained to walk on leashes as kittens so they don’t fear stuff like that, and I made it fun. It was a play tunnel when they were kittens and the treat idea and feeding meals in them we did too, which made them great with them, even put cat beds in them so they could use them for cat naps. And lots of ‘basic’ trips in the car and to the vets in them helps majorly, so they know what to expect, and know it isn’t bad. Those 4 love the vets and the attention. My youngest thinks it’s a game when I get the carrier out and will push his way passed everyone else to go in, and won’t even get out if I walk around with the door open!! He’s such a funny cat.

The other 5, I grew up with, but didn’t have any actual say over how they were raised, because they were a relative’s, and then she gave them to me. So, they’ve been used to me and trusted me since they were little/born, and I lived in the same house, but I didn’t get to work with them on carriers, and my relative hadn’t really taken them to the vets for anything, so I inherited 5 fully matured cats that needed everything from training to spaying/neutering to shots, and had never experienced being in a carrier. It was a nightmare. Thankfully they at least knew me and trusted me, so I could work with that. But going to the vets for the first time to get spayed/neutered I believe is traumatic to them, and I hadn’t thought about it at the time and that’s how it was with a couple of them. I think it’s best to start with a basic exam and shots, then work on spaying/neutering on the 2nd or 3rd visit, only because if they’ve never been to the vets it’s traumatic for their first time to be left there and then they wake up after surgery and you’re not there and they are in a strange place…so each time they go to the vet they are afraid you won’t bring them back home with you. That’s what I think. But we leave our carriers out in the room all day, and they do get fed in them now and I’ve spritzed them with Feliway and catnip so they are much better with them. Now instead of 5 hard-to-handle kitties in carriers, only 2 are really much of a problem with the carriers, and 1 of the 2 can easily be bribed with treats. I will definitely try feeding the most difficult one in the carrier and then shutting the door and giving her a treat once it’s closed and repeat that until she’s comfortable with it.

Great advice.

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