Cats and Carriers: You Can Teach an Old Cat New Tricks

Cats and Carriers: You Can Teach an Old Cat New Tricks

Take out the carrier - and now where is your cat?

The answer: The next county....maybe even the next state.

Veterinary visits for cats are on the decline. In fact, half of all cats didn't even see a veterinarian last year. As a result, preventive illness in cats is on the rise.

Nearly half of all cat owners get nervous even thinking about a veterinary visit. And I bet - if you asked them - about 90 percent of cats get even more anxious. But - till now - no one has polled the cats.

To some extent it's all about transportation. If that darn cat would only hop into the carrier, and essentially say, "C'mon, let's go - I love seeing the veterinarian." If that happened, veterinary visit would be on the rise.

Believe it or not, even cats not positively predisposed to the carrier can readjust their attitudes.

How? Well, here's what you do -

Leave out the carrier as if it is a piece of furniture. Periodically drop treats inside so the carrier become an automatic treat dispenser.

Once kitty begins to check out the carrier to see if there are any yummies - now begin to feed your cat from there.

To get her could take several weeks....or sooner - it doesn't matter. Take your time. When your cat totally feels 'cool' about dining from the carrier, drop from treats inside and zip or close it up. Take the carrier a few steps into another room, and nonchalantly unzip or unsnap it. And let kitty out. Give your cat periodic tours of your home from inside the carrier.  When you let the cat out of the bag, now offer a meal. This way your cat will associate the carrier with a meal. For finicky cats who may not care about the meal, follow the house tours - taking your cat around in the carrier for just a few minutes - with whatever your cat likes, treats or play time.

When your cat shows no worry whatsoever - now bring kitty to the car. Turn on the motor - but go nowhere - except right back into the house, where the cat receives a meal.

Next step, go down the block....

There are some ways to fast forward all this:

1) Spray Feliway inside the carrier. Feliway is a copy of the pheromone found on feline cheek pads, which offers comfort. When a cat rubs a cheek pads on your leg, the cat is saying 'I own you.' Owning the carrier - purrfectly what you want, as well as a more relaxed cat.

2) Anxitane - A tasty yummy, L-theanine manufactured for pets to lower anxiety levels.

3) Catnip - for some cats who play bonkers for catnip, this works great to help them to "forget their problems." Beware, some cats can become more anxious, potentially.

Cats and carriers - wow, the subject is now becoming more mainstream. A story in the San Diego Union Tribune about how the San Diego Zoo has trained an ocelot to go into the carrier. If they can do with an ocelot....

Also, here's a free handout "Getting Your Cat to the Veterinarian" from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

From the CATalyst Council,  a video - "Carriers are Friends Not Foes."

I also have a handout (it's free) available on training cats to carriers.


Leave a comment
  • Wow, great post, Steve! When I saw the subject I figured I was going to comment with some tips of my own but you've covered them.

    Because I feed some of my cats in the carriers they all fight to get into an open one. Most of them still don't like going to "the vet" but at least they are used to carriers.

    I hope many, many cat owners read this post and follow your instructions!

  • Sounds like you've got it down....and thank you!!

Leave a comment