The Perfect Carrier
Despite previous unpleasant experiences, a cat can be taught that a carrier and travel don’t have to be stressful. A carrier is important for everyone’s safety and should be a cozy, secure place. The right carrier should be sturdy and open quietly from both the top and the side. The top should come off quickly and easily to allow you to access your kitty without pulling or tipping him out.
A Happy Place
Make the carrier a place that your cat likes to be in at home. Put it somewhere convenient for both you and your cat, such as near his favorite resting place. The location should be out of the way and safe from intrusion. If this spot is off the ground, it should be secure and big enough that the carrier won’t fall. Keep the door open at all times for easy access and put a soft towel or fleece inside. It may also help to keep the carrier top off for some time to encourage climbing into the new nest. You can use toys to en-courage your cat to climb into and out of the carrier. Feeding your kitty inside the open carrier helps change associations in a good way.
Practice Makes Perfect
When your cat climbs into the carrier, immediately praise him and give him a reward. Over a few days or weeks, once your cat associates the carrier with rewards, close the door to the carrier before you praise and reward. Open the door again so he can come out at will.
Facial pheromones can be sprayed in or wiped inside the carrier to increase the sense of security. Try to apply it 15-30 minutes before your cat gets into the carrier so the alcohol in the spray evaporates.
Ready for Lift-Off
When training your cat or kitten to be a fear-free traveler, it is important to break the trip down into the following little steps, providing rewards at each step to be sure that your cat is comfortable with each one before moving on to the next step on the next day. Wean your cat into the new, stress-free experience, one new step at a time:
- Cover the carrier with a blanket or towel
- Hold the carrier steady with a hand on either side, or stabilize it with one hand under it and the other on the handle.
- Place the carrier into the back seat of the car and secure it with a seatbelt.
- Close the door, get into the front seat and close your door, and start the engine.
- Drive to the end of the driveway and back.
Begin with short trips around the block, then increase to slightly longer drives, working up to a drive to the practice (without the cat being examined or handled) to complete the process.