Getting an uncooperative cat into a carrier

Author picture Jessica

Does your cat loathe it when you pull out the carrier to go to the vet or a pet sitter’s house? This is understandable – no one loves a visit to the doctor and much the same might be said about your cat. Cats relate to the world by way of their environment, so a change in routine or location can be stressful for them – especially if it’s to the vet for a checkup, with all the strange sounds and smells.

Here are some key tips to make the experience smoother and less scratchy for everyone involved!

  • The key with helping your cat (or dog) with any disruptive experience is to start preparing them well before the big day.
  • If you’ve already been to the vet, give the carrier a good wipe down to get rid of any residual scent – and be sure to avoid scented cleaning products!
  • If buying a carrier, shop around – there are many different designs, from traditional carriers with a door at one end, to crates that open at the top, to carriers on wheels and backpack carriers with portholes that look like space-ships! 
  • Leave your carrier somewhere accessible (and tempting, like in a nice patch of sun) for your cat to explore. Cats naturally love hiding in boxes so if you can help your cat connect the dots that this is a safe space for them, so much the better – hide treats in and around the carrier, lay familiar blankets in it, and any toys your cat likes to play with.
  • Before you travel – cats have sensitive stomachs, so avoid big meals in case your cat gets car sick. Also cover the carrier so your cat isn’t startled by the environment around them.
  • To get your cat into the carrier – place a familiar comforting blankie inside. Gently pick up your cat supporting their chest and hold their back feet, and place them in the carrier backwards if possible so they can’t see where they’re going. If your cat is distressed, wrap them snugly in a towel to calm them down and try again. 
  • If your cat is exceptionally stressed, there are pheromone-scented products on the market that are shown to calm cats down – spraying the carrier beforehand will help maintain the zen!
  • Have a few practice trips around the block with your cat and reward them with a treat each time.
  • NOTE: it’s not a great idea to use a second-hand carrier found in a garage sale, as your cat will be distressed by the scent of another cat. Some pathogens can last a long time on everyday surfaces and can be very difficult to decontaminate.