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Felinexpress.com home > Cat Care > Cat Carrier

Making the cat carrier- Cat Friendly

Most of us have dealt with cats that fear the cat carrier.  When it’s time for a vet appointment, the carrier is taken out of hiding, placed on the floor and suddenly, the cat(s) vanish. Try as we might, they are nowhere to be seen.

This is a common problem causing frustration for the cat owners.

Overcoming this fear takes time. If you haven’t made your cat carrier “cat friendly” by now, don’t despair. You can prevail!

Most cats fear the cat carrier because they associate items with pain, discomfort and stress. Cats that run every time the carrier comes out of hiding remember what happened to them last time they went inside. They were put inside a dark place carried to a machine that vibrated hurting their ears. They could smell all sorts of unpleasant scents.

Then they were transported to a place with more scary sounds and smells. They could smell cat urine, the stress pheromones of other animals. Taken out of their hiding place, they were poked, prodded, had their temperature taken (how rude!) and even got stuck with needles! Your cats can’t process and think through the situation to make sense of it. All they know is the cat carrier is to be avoided at all costs.

Taking the fear away:

  • Bring the cat carrier out of the closet. Put it out at all times for the cat.
  • Feed your cat tasty, meaty treats or snacks inside the carrier.
  • Toss in catnip toys.
  • Line the carrier with soft bedding.
  • Leave the door propped open at all times.
  • If you use the hard carrier, take a pipecleaner and stick one end through the slats. Run it around the side slat, and twist one end to anchor it.
  • Inside, place a feather toy on the other end of the pipecleaner, and twist that to secure it. The kitty now has a stress toy to bat.
  • Pour some loose-leaf catnip on the bottom of the carrier (taking out the bedding first).
  • Spray Feliway Spray inside the carrier.
  • NEVER force your cat to go inside the carrier, let it be her idea.
  • If your cat is an alpha cat, put the carrier up high and secure it so she can have a nice bed.
  • Put on an old tee shirt and go for a walk. Get yourself nice and sweaty then go home and take off the tee shirt and put it in the carrier. Let your cat know there are good things inside.

Before the vet visit:

  • The night before the vet visit, take your cat’s favorite toy and sleep with it. Bring it as close to your body as is comfortable so it will pick up your scent.
  • Wash the carrier out with soap and water and let it air dry.
  • Spray the cat carrier with Feliway Spray.
  • Line the bottom of the carrier with absorbent pads (in case of accidents).
  • Place the carrier in the same place it always has been in the house.
  • Right before the vet visit, toss in the cat’s favorite toy (while she is nearby)
  • Once she jumps in shut the door and latch it. 

When you take her to the car, be sure to keep the carrier level. Once in the car, drape the top of the carrier and the sides with a dark cloth (weather permitting). If it is a hot day, keep it uncovered and be sure to put it somewhere in the car where it won’t be getting direct sunlight.

Play classical music (harp music is best) all the way to the vet.

Once you arrive and the weather is cool enough, keep her in the car until the time of the appointment. Otherwise, spray a bit of Feliway spray on the dark cloth and cover her cat carrier before taking her inside.

Use a top-loading cat carrier. But if you don’t have a top loading, allow her to come out on her own without being pulled out. 

Once she is finished being examined, open the carrier door and back her into the carrier. Don’t push her in head-on. Make sure the carrier is against a wall or table so it won’t move.

Cats and cat carriers can get along. In my household, I start when they are kittens. I put food inside and feed the kittens shutting the door of the cat carrier, so the other cats can’t get to the food. By the time the kittens become young adults, cat carriers are just another place to sleep and eat. Not something they fear. I don’t encourage my cats to use the carrier as a toilet. Litter pans stay well away from cat carriers.

Never take the doors off your cat carrier. Valuable time can be wasted in an emergency situation as first, you locate the door, and second you try and put it on the cat carrier. Prop the door open, or tie it open. After your vet visit, be sure and wash the carrier. No matter how user-friendly the carrier has become, vet visits always bring back scary scents. These scents settle on the carrier.

Wash the carrier spraying it down with Feliway Spray. Then put the cat carrier back in the house, door propped opened welcoming all your cats!

Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer, website content provider and member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization, bottle babies and animal abuse issues.


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