Getting Kitty into the Carrier

All too often, our customers are delayed arriving for their check-ins, or struggle during their check-out because they cannot for the life of them get kitty into the carrier! Some cats love getting in and lounging around in there, but unfortunately for the majority of us, this is not the norm! I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and tricks we use here at the cattery to get kitties into their carrier. You can try these techniques at home the next time your furry friends decide that they are absolutely not going to travel with you!

Home sweet home: Those kitties that go in and out of their carriers with ease (always to my amazement!) are all pretty acclimatized and comfortable with their carriers – So naturally we have asked the owners of these kitties what their secret is! In most of these cases, the carrier is left out at home, so the kitties can come and go as they please. It is used as a hideout or a nice quite place to lounge in the living room! Many carriers can also be “broken down” or have the top taken off – with a blanket or towel inside, your cat carrier has very quickly/easily become a cat bed! If kitty uses the carrier as a comfortable place to snooze on a regular basis, then getting into it when you ask them to politely won’t be an issue!! Unfortunately, if you don’t have a lot of space around your home, you may not have a spot to leave the carrier out for your cat! In that event you may need to resort to more drastic measures…

A "broken down" carrier can be used as a bed - This will help kitty get comfortable with the idea of being in the carrier!
Element of Surprise: My kitties don’t even need to see the carrier before they know they need to run and hide! They recognize the sound of us carrying it up the stairs, and like lightning, they bolt and disappear and do not resurface until they feel the coast is clear! Obviously, this is problematic when you have a vet appointment you need to get to on time!! To avoid this fiasco at my place, we always take the carrier out a couple of nights in advance. They generally give up on hiding within a few hours, so a day or two later when it is time to pack them up and head out the door, they have long forgotten that the carrier has been taken out! If this doesn’t work for you, another trick we have tried – although this method works best with a partner – is to pick the kitty up before you even think about bringing out the carrier, and take them to a room with little or no hiding places (like the bathroom). Your partner can then come to the door with the carrier and you can plop the kitty in (possible using one of the techniques listed below?). If you are trying this on your own, chances are your kitty will bolt as soon as the door has been cracked open, leaving you standing in the doorway to an empty room carrier in hand, and kitty off hiding in the deep dark corners of your house (which is exactly what happened to me… and I had a friend helping out!).

Treats and other Tricks: Perhaps your kitty can be enticed a little more easily to go into the carrier… For food motivated kitties, temptations are magical!! You can sprinkle a few into the carrier, and when kitty races in to gobble them up, you can close the door and you have swiftly won this mini battle! This trick only worked a couple of times for me, before my cat decided he preferred freedom over snacks…cheeky fellow. For some cats, it will take something a little more creative than temptaions or party mix to get them climbing into that carrier! If you’re cat goes bananas for catnip, try sprinkling that inside to see if they’ll go running in to party! Another alternative you could try would be pheromone spray (like Feliway), which gives the area it is sprayed on a more comfortable/familiar sense making kitty happy to lounge inside! These methods are inredible if they work for your kitty… but they are a little too passive for most.

Items that might make the inside of your cat carrier seem a little more enticing!

Items that might make the inside of your cat carrier seem a little more enticing!

Bums first: Many cats will flail their limbs in all directions and squirm out of your grasp when you try putting their heads inside the carrier door! One of the most successful methods to getting kitties into their carriers would be to tip the carrier vertically with the open door facing the ceiling. Pick your kitty up and lower them into the carrier bum first. They may still try to put their front paws on the edge of the doorway to pull themselves out, but with most of their weight already in the carrier, it is easy to thwart their escape efforts! I have a very large, very strong cat, however, and he was usually able to pull himself out of the door before I could take his paws off the carrier and close him in! I have since purchased a carrier that opens from the top, and have had much more success with a larger doorway to get all of his paws in at once!

Standing the carrier vertically, and lowering the kitty in bum first is usually pretty effective!

Standing the carrier vertically, and lowering the kitty in bum first is usually pretty effective!

Immobilizing Kitty: Now this section seems pretty self-explanatory… Putting an immobilized kitty into a carrier is pretty easy… But getting the kitty immobilized is sometimes the tricky part! The best way to immobilize most kitties is by scruffing them. To “scruff” a cat you want to hold the loose skin at the back of their neck in a firm grip – I never pick a kitty up by their scruff (especially an adult!), and will use my other hand to support the cats body weight if it is not standing on the floor. While scruffing the kitty with one hand and holding them with the other you can gently glide your kitty into the carrier.

Scruffing does not hurt the kitty, but you should always support the weight of the cat with your free hand.

Scruffing does not hurt the kitty, but you should always support the weight of the cat with your free hand.

Some cats do not respond well to being scruffed, or have such loose skin at the back of their necks that scruffing is ineffective. In these scenarios, you can try to “blindfold” your kitty with your hand or a face cloth. Although, this might not work either if your kitty has already seen the carrier and knows what is coming – but this is a great trick if you still have the element of surprise and the carrier is hidden, or they have forgotten about it (because you brought it out a couple of days ago, you clever duck!).

Blindfolding your kitty with your hand seems to easy to work... but it does!!

Blindfolding your kitty with your hand seems to easy to work… but it does!!

My final (and pretty successful) trick to holding a kitty still to get them into a carrier, is to wrap or swaddle them tightly in a large towel (AKA: the kitty burrito). Once they are snugly wrapped up, you can slide the end of the towel with their head into th carrier, and slowly loosen the towel. As your kitty unravels her/himself you can pull the towel out and close the carrier door. For kitties that are a little more feisty, you can close the carrier door  while your kitty is still wrapped in the towel, and they will break free from the burrito themselves while they are secured in the carrier!

The kitty burrito!

The kitty burrito!

Other carrier tips: So, you’ve finally got your kitty into the carrier… You want to make sure that you give your kitty the best possible experience in their carrier, so that they will have less anxiety about getting into it in the future. Some cats will hate the carrier no matter what, but we will still do what we can to make them comfortable! You should line the bottom of the carrier with  a towel, blanket or even a puppy pee pad (which are disposable and can be purchased at the dollar store!). This will not only give your kitty a comfortable base to lay on during their travels, but will also absorb any liquids should your kitty have an accident. Having urine or vomit soaked into the towel is much nicer than having your kitty arrive at their destination in a puddle with their fur soaked L . If treats, catnip and pheromone spray didn’t work to get your kitty into the carrier, they can still be used to make the experience more enjoyable, and you can pop a few treats or catnip in through the bars once kitty is secured in the suite – pheromone spray should be applied to the bedding before the kitty is put into the carrier, as you never want to spray the cat directly!

Carriers that open from the top can make life a little easier if your kitty is a real squirmer!

Carriers that open from the top can make life a little easier if your kitty is a real squirmer!

We hope this blog has been helpful and informative! If you do have any questions you are always welcome to contact us for information – but if you have any concerns regarding your kitty we always recommend speaking with your veterinarian!

Cats Castle Cat Hotel is a cat boarding that specializes in both short term and long term cat boarding. Our cattery provides a luxurious alternative to pet sitting. Our facility is located in Oakville Ontario, just minutes off of the QEW. Our customers come from all over Toronto and the GTA, Markham, Milton, Hamilton, Mississauga, Burlington and more!