How to Get your Cat into a Carrier… Without Trauma



Does your heart sink in anticipation of your cat’s next trip to the vet?

It’s not so much the vaccine checkup you dread, so much as getting the cat in the darn carrier. If your attempts to persuade Kitty to enter the carrier look like something from a comedy show, then you’re not alone. There are many an appointment missed because the cat wouldn’t co-operate or else saw the basket and went to ground.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little prior planning your cat can associate the carrier with pleasant things. But if you haven’t the time and that vet trip is imminent, here are some tips that increase the chance of getting Kitty into the basket without you needing Band-Aids and antibiotics.


The Carrier as a Place of Comfort

How would feel if you were forced to wear a pair of ugly shoes each time you went to the dentist? Those shoes were hidden at all other times, but each time you had a root canal treatment …out came those uncomfortable and ugly shoes. You’d pretty quickly develop a strong dislike of them.

This is what it’s like for cats that only ever see the carrier when something unpleasant is about to happen, such as a trip to the vet. At the very least if the basket is left out all the time, and then the sight of it doesn’t have bad associations. And then when the cat discovers the box is really very comfy to sit in, then things really start to swing.

In short, help your cat to see the carrier as a pleasant place to be rather than as transport to trauma. Take the lid off and put a super soft bed inside, plus a T-shirt that smells reassuringly of you. Seed the bed with her favorite treats, so she gets a lovely surprise and is more likely to pop back other times to see if more treats have appeared.

Make a sustained effort to show her the carrier represents good things. For example:

  • Feed her in the carrier
  • Regularly hide treats in the carrier
  • Spritz it with Feliway (synthetic cat pheromones that help her feel secure)
  • Make it an inviting place to sleep with a hot water bottle or heat mat
  • Praise and fuss her when she sleeps in the box

If things are going really well then pop the top on and carry her gently into the kitchen where her next meal awaits. In other words help her understand the carrier means good things.


When all Else Fails

OK, so the appointment is tomorrow and you haven’t time to retrain. If that is the case then increase your chances of success by following the suggestions below.

Trying to shove the cat head first into a dark box is guaranteed to meet with resistance. Being forced into a dark place with no escape is against the cat’s every instinct. So always put your cat in the box back-end first.

If the cat has other ideas you can bundle her back legs together in one hand and support her front with the other. Picking the cat up this way, allows you to slide the back end into the box first and follow up with the front.

If the cat wises up to this, then try wrapping her in a towel so that her legs are cocooned inside. This stops her scrabbling and putting her legs out at an odd angle to stop her going inside. The added advantage is the towel can go in with her to stop her rattling around inside the box in transit.

If even getting the towel over the cat is a challenge, then wear a long-sleeved jumper or coat and put on a pair of gloves. That at least gives your some protection from inadvertent scratches.


Basket Case


If you have yet to buy a cat carrier, then spare a little thought for the design.

The traditional wicker cat basket is far from cat friendly. Not only are they practically impossible to disinfect, but they’re hopeless for getting a cat in and out of. The unwilling cat simply has to dig her claws into the wicker work and she’s as difficult to dislodge as a limpet from a rock.

Neither is the plasticized cardboard pet carrier, much loved as a cheap and cheerful solution, much good either. Whilst sturdy enough for a placid cat, if yours is determined the box is not where she wants to be then she will claw, bite, or barge her way free.

Instead, look for either a plastic or wire carrier.

Wire carriers are harder to come by but have the advantage of having a wide top opening lid (ideal for dropping in a reluctant cat). In addition the wire has a plastic coating which makes it easy to disinfectant. One top tip with a wire carrier to help your cat in transit, is to cover the basket with a large towel. This hides the cat, making her less exposed and more secure.

A wide variety of plastic carry boxes are available. Ideally chose one that has both an opening lid and a door. This gives you options when it comes to getting the cat inside. If you can only find a carrier with a door, then check out how easy it is to take the whole box apart. Cats have a lovely habit of deciding not to come out once at the vet, and rather than the “tip and shake” technique for exiting Kitty, simply lifting the top off is a lot nicer.

And finally, be assured you are doing the right thing by taking your cat for her checkup. Whilst she may not be thrilled by the trip, you are acting with her best interests at heart and she will forgive you…especially if there’s a tasty treat waiting when she gets home.