Cat carriers: how to get your cat to love hers

Cat carriers come in a variety of shapes and materials but one thing is for sure, most cats will try to avoid them. That’s probably because we tend to haul out the carrier only when the cat needs to go to the vet or to the cattery which, for your cat, is a journey they’d rather not take. However, you can train your cat to accept, and even enjoy, her carrier. Here are some tips from Dr Sophia Yin.

Cat carriers: how training helps

  • Decreases stress associated with veterinary visits which means your cat is more likely to be seen and treated for medical conditions early
  • Easy containment during an emergency
  • Decreases stress if hospitalised or boarded at a cattery
  • Provides more resting and hiding spots
  • Allows for easier travel

Cat Carriers: how to find the right one

  • The carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around.
  • Hard plastic carriers with a non-slip mat are safest. Insecure footing can increase anxiety.
  • Look for a carrier where the top is easily removed. This makes for easier examinations by your vet while keeping the cat comfortable.

Training your cat to love her carrier

  1. Make the carrier a part of the environment! If the carrier is visible and within reach all of the time, then it is no longer a strange and scary object.
  2. Start with just the bottom of the carrier with soft bedding. Place it in an area where your cat frequently chooses to rest, perhaps somewhere where  you are like next to your desk or a sunny spot that she loves to sleep in.
  3. Leave treats in the carrier for your cat to discover on her own.
  4. Once your cat loves spending time in the bottom part of the carrier, introduce the top. Leave the door off of the carrier for now.
  5. Leave treats, or food puzzles, or toys inside the carrier for your cat to find throughout the day. You can also play with feather toys near or inside the carrier to encourage your cat to investigate.
  6. Play the ‘in and out’ game by tossing a treat inside, then waiting for your cat to retrieve the treat.
  7. Continue tossing treats into the carrier until your cat chooses to wait in the carrier for the next treat.
  8. If at any time your cat appears distressed during the process, go back a step and start over.
  9. Add the door. While your cat is eating treats in the carrier, close the door briefly before they notice. Gradually build up duration in the crate with treats slowly, making sure that your cat does not appear distressed or worried at any point in the process.

Department of Health COVID-19 updates available at www.sacoronavirus.co.za

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