BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Get a Cat into a Carrier: The Non-Painful Ways to Persuade Your Cat

An endearing ginger cat in her cat carrier
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Cats are smart. They don’t take a “Yes” or “No” from their humans. They simply do their own thing. If you’re an owner, you probably have been wondering how to get a cat into a carrier gracefully. Cats don’t usually associate a pet carrier with good experiences. My own cat hates it as I usually only put him in it when I have to take him to the pet, or the groomer. All the scratches, hisses, growls, and the running away are a part of the routine. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Rather than matching your cat’s agitation with equal frustration and fighting with him tooth and nail whenever you want him to get into the carrier, you should use your wits to coerce him in a gentle yet more effective way. Not only will this save time, but it will also spare you some injuries.

Image showing a cat laying down next to a cat carrier

We have come up with some tips on how you can persuade your cat to enter the carrier. From understanding your cat to choosing the right carrier, this article will solve your problem. We have included all the do’s and don’ts in this post, and hopefully, you will gain a better insight into your beloved feline’s little mind so you can make him stop hating that carrier. Without further ado…

2 Ways to Peacefully Coerce Your Cat into Entering a Carrier

You can’t expect for your cat to “bow down” to you completely on the first try. They are usually not famous for being an obedient animal. They are very independent, and they pretty much have their own ways of thinking and behaving. Manipulating” this way of thinking and behaving is the first of the two easy and peaceful methods we are going to explain to you on how to make your cat act less hostile towards the carrier.

“Manipulating” Your Cat’s Way of Thinking: The 6 Degrees of Familiarization

Cats are not as vocalized as dogs. You need to be very observant to know exactly what your cat wants. In order for you to get a cat into a carrier, you must first learn and understand cat behavior and body languages.

Image showing little kitty sitting in a cat carrier

They are creatures of routine and habit. When they feel like they are being taken away from their comfort zone, it will usually upset them. If you can read their emotions properly, it will give you the upper hand as you will be able to devise proper ways to defuse your cat. We have an easy guide on how you can read your cat’s body languages which we have broken down into six sections.

The 1st Degree: Neutral

This is when they are most relaxed. If you spot your cat with half-lidded eyes or if they are blinking softly, they are in their neutral mode. Sometimes, they could be stretching out, lying down, or curling up and there will be no tension on their face to be detected. This is usually the best time to try to persuade them into getting into a carrier.

The 2nd Degree: Focused

As you approach with the intention to bring your cat to the vet or the groomer, your cat may snap out of his relaxed state. He senses something different about you. He knows you’re not there to pet him. Cats are born to be natural hunters after all.

Ginger cat sitting in a cat carrier

When they are focused, you can easily see signs such as narrowed pupils. Their tail will be twitching or being held out low just behind them. At this point, don’t start to panic. You need to stay calm to avoid startling your cat.

The 3rd Degree: Happy

Now’s the time to “manipulate” them into thinking that you only have the best of intentions (which you do, but your cat doesn’t see it that way). Keep the carrier in view but far away enough that your cat won’t be suspicious, then call the cat to you in your usual, affectionate way.

Two relaxed cats sitting in a cat carrier

For you to make your cat happy, he has to be in a relaxed mode. And in order for you make your cat relaxed, you must first gain his trust. A happy cat will have their paws tucked neatly underneath them, ears pointed up and forward.

Their eyes will be half-closed, and they will usually purr gently. When you stare deep into their eyes, they will blink slowly, indicating that they trust you completely. When they are relaxed and happy, this is the perfect time to get that cat carrier ready.

The 4th Degree: Anxious

Sadly, there’s no way your cat won’t notice the cat carrier as you get it ready. But at least you already have him in your grasp, and he won’t be able to run away. As the anxiety increases, you will notice that their pupils are dilated and wide-open. They will cower, and their tail will waver slowly.

A cat sitting in a cat suitcase

If you have a constantly anxious cat, you might need to find the best carrier for nervous cats which is designed specifically to calm them down and to give reassurance of the new surroundings.

The 5th Degree: Fearful

After showing anxiety towards the new situation, your cat might be in a fearful state next. This is an optional stage. Some cats will be anxious, but because they trust you, they may not be outright angry or hostile. In this case, keep talking soothingly to them and gently guide them into the carrier.

cat-in-carrier-on-grass

If your cat is hissing, growling, or striking at you with all their claws out or even running away, chasing your cat in hopes of catching them might not be the best solution. You should give them time. Perhaps cajole him with some treats, then try again. If that doesn’t work, you may have to go through some more roundabout yet effective ways such as:

  • Using a Familiar Scent. Familiarizing a cat into a new environment or thing can really help in reducing their stress level. 90% of the time cats do use their sense of smell to navigate around or get themselves comfortable with their surroundings. Make good use of that by using a familiar scent again and again on the carrier. But cats don’t really like citrusy smells, so avoid that.

  • Building His Curiosity. Because cats love to explore, you should make use of this when trying to get your cat into a carrier. A few weeks before you need the travel carrier, you can put your cat’s favorite pillow or towel in there and let your cat explore the new thing by himself.

The 6th Degree: Relieved

Once you pass the hardest stages and your cat is finally giving in, you can see their bodies showing relief. They are calm—licking their body slowly—and sometimes they will start yawning too.

Two little kitties sitting in carrier

This is the best moment for you to get your cat carrier ready. By understanding the behavior and body languages of a cat, it will help you in determining how you can get your cat into the carrier.

Choose the Right Cat Carrier

If the first method didn’t work no matter how hard you tried, the problem might not be with your cat, but with the carrier. Now we will talk more about what type of carrier you should get for your cat.

Choosing the right one will always help you. Because cats can be very sensitive, you should always pay extra attention when choosing a carrier. Follow the steps below to find the right cat carrier for your pet.

Step 1: Pick the Right Size

It is very important to make sure that when you are getting a carrier for your cat, you emphasize on the size of the carrier itself. He should have enough space to stand, sit, and turn around.

Image of two cat carriers

The standard that is usually used is to buy a cat carrier which is one and a half time the size of your cat. A smaller size will make them uncomfortable, and if it’s too big, your cat could get hurt after sliding around in it.

Another thing to consider when choosing the right size is the distance of most of your trips. Longer trips tend to call for regular-sized carriers. Make sure you can put water and food bowls in it. Also, if you currently have a kitten, it is very crucial for you to get a carrier that will fit an adult cat later as your kitten will quickly grow up.

Step 2: Choose Your Desired Style

Cats love comfort. That is one thing you can’t deny about them. When it comes to getting a cat into a carrier, one of the most important things you have to consider is the type of carrier that you are going to get.

Two cats looking at a cat carrier

There are cat carriers which offer more safety but comes with higher prices. There are also those that are more affordable but are lacking in many departments such as durability.

If we can spend days, weeks and months pondering what kind of car we would like to get for ourselves, finding the right cat carrier for your pet should have the same standards applied as well. If you pick the right carrier, it can be a worthwhile investment.

Rolling Suitcase Style Carriers

There are four different types of cat carriers. We will explain each of them including the advantages and disadvantages of buying them.

  • Cardboard. If you are looking for a temporary transport, a cardboard carrier is your best bet. They usually come in the same size as the cat, and they’re very good for quick trips. However, your cat will not be as comfortable, and some cats will even be tempted to chew on the material. If your cat does his business while on a trip, it can be very hard to clean up. If you are looking for more than just affordability, you might want to skip this one.

  • Soft Carriers. Firm, flexible, and comfortable are among the words you can use to describe soft cat carriers. They are usually as sturdy as most hard plastic carriers despite being much leaner. Unfortunately, they are weak to your cat’s sharp claws. If your cat tends to get car sick, it can also be very hard to clean.

  • Rolling Suitcase Style Carriers. This type of carrier is considered the “fancy one.” They have more room so your cat will feel comfortable. While you are pulling the carrier around, your cats will also be able to see their surroundings. We suggest this type of carrier for families who are always on the move and have kids to look after. Just be careful if you have a nervous cat because they will often hear bumpy, loud sounds while being pulled around in this carrier.

  • Hard Plastic Carriers. The most common type of cat carriers is made of hard plastic. This is the carrier which many owners love to purchase. It’s easy to clean if your cat soils it and it’s also the most durable out of all carriers we mentioned above. Definitely a go-to carrier for cats.

Step 3: Select the Best Features

When you are trying to get your cat into a carrier for travel purposes, you have to make sure that the carrier has the exact features you need.

  • The cat carriers should have multiple doors. This will minimize the stress, and it will allow you to gain access to your cat easily.

  • There should be screws that allow you to take off the top of your carrier easily. This feature will come in handy when your cat is to be examined by the vet.

  • Carriers that come with plastic pegs are easy to work with since you can take off the whole top.

Going on a trip with your cat can be pretty intimidating. Thus, the reason why you should have all of these features is to secure the comfortability and safety of your cats.

Step 4: Separate Each of Your Cat into Different Carriers

Never ever mix two cats together when you are taking them on a trip. Even if the carrier is too big for a cat, you should avoid this at all costs. Cramming them together can be stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult for the cats.

A cat getting out of a cat carrier

They can even become aggressive and start attacking each other. This will traumatize the cats, and this event will keep them from getting into a carrier easily next time.

How to Make Your Cat Associate the Carrier with Good Things

The level of comfort a travel carrier can provide for a cat is crucial. It will determine whether your cat associates good things or bad things with the carrier. When traveling with a cat, it is important for you to follow a few key points that will guarantee a safe, pleasant trip.

  • Reduce Travel Sickness. About an hour before leaving, make sure you do not feed your cat in order to avoid nausea.

  • Let Them See Their Surroundings. Cats are curious animals. Don’t restrict their field of vision. Let them gaze at anything that passes them by when they are in the carrier. They will act calmer this way.

  • Avoid the Ground. Never put the carrier on the ground especially if there is a dog wandering around. It is common sense, but most owners tend to forget this.

  • Reward, Reward, Reward. Before going on a long trip, try shorter ones first. Go to a place that will only need you to drive for 5-15 minutes. Once you have arrived, reward your cat with a tasty treat.

Wrap Up

Getting a cat to be familiar with a new environment will usually take a lot of time, practice, and tons of patience. Ideally, it is always good to start off simple and easy. Never force a cat into liking something. They build up their interest over time, but once they are attached, they will be comfortable.

Our article is designed to help you go through each step carefully. Before getting a carrier for your pet, you should be able to read your cat’s behavior and body languages. This will always make things a lot easier to handle.

Always make the carrier a part of their environment. Do not leave the carrier in the garage or basement and only take it out once in a while when you need it. The carrier should be visible at all times. You can simply put the carrier in your cat’s favorite spot and let him familiarize himself with it.

A cat sleeping in a cat carrier

One last advice we would like to give you is that you should never transport your cat without a carrier. This is a dangerous act. Not just for the cat but also for you while you are driving. Cats are unpredictable. When they are anxious, anything could happen, and accidents may occur.

What kind of carrier do you usually use? How does your cat react when he sees the carrier? If he is the type that reacts violently, how do you usually calm him down? Please share any tips you have with the rest of the class by placing a comment down below!

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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