If you are a cat parent then you know the struggle between cat and carrier all too well. As soon as the carrier comes out so do the claws and your cat impressively turns into every shape that will not fit through that door but it's with good reason. Cats are very smart and sensitive beings and they know that the carrier probably means the vet, groomer or some other stress-inducing association but we are here to help you change that with a few simple steps.
Firstly, you have to make sure that you have a suitable carrier for your cat. Whether you choose a plastic, metal or fabric carrier it needs to be strong, secure, easy to clean and lightweight.
A few more things to consider when buying a cat carrier are:
Openings – ideally for training purposes, a carrier with a removable top is preferred alternatively get a carrier that has at least 2 exits, one in the front and the other on the top or side.
Size – it needs to be big enough for your cat to comfortably lie down and turn around in but also snug enough so that they aren't falling about inside during the journey.
Number – for those of you who have more than 1 cat, every cat should have their own individual carrier.
Ventilation – most importantly make sure there are enough holes in your chosen carrier, cats can easily overheat or suffocate if there isn't sufficient ventilation.
So, the aim is to make your cat's carrier into everyday cat purrniture (you get it..a play on the word furniture..it's cute). Instead of hiding the carrier away until that dreaded moment that you have to force them into it, make it part of their everyday life and let them enter and exit it on their own terms. Cats are nosey and love to investigate new things so putting the carrier somewhere your cat enjoys to relax or hang out will allow them to explore and get used to it in their own time (which will probably be sooner than you think).
You can help entice your cat into the carrier by putting their bed or a warm blanket inside it so that it has a nice familiar smell or by putting toys and treats inside. You can also spray the carrier with a calming synthetic cat scent/pheromone such as Feliway. If your carrier has a removable top it might help to start with the lid off until they are more comfortable inside it before you introduce the top and make sure the door stays open. The idea is to make the carrier something that your cat associates with safety and familiar things such as home, food, naps and play.
Once your cat is comfortable with going in and out of the carrier (with the lid on) on their own, it's time to start closing the door for short periods while they are inside it and then letting them out shortly after. Next, try closing the door and walking around the house with them in the carrier before letting them out again. Make sure to start small and to use treats. Cats can also easily sense when you are feeling anxious so using a calm voice and energy will help your cat feel calm too.
Finally, after completing these simple steps your cat will sooner or later realise that the carrier doesn't mean that something bad is about to happen. You can transform the scary carrier that they run away from into the place that they go to settle down and feel safe in.