Don't Let The Cat Out Of The Bag! How To Prepare Your Kitty For The Travel Carrier

It's a familiar ordeal for cat owners. You're all packed and ready for a trip, but because you left the dreaded pet carrier in plain sight, you're now engaged in a ten minute chase around the house for your petrified feline. You could be preparing your cat for a long journey or a short drive to the cattery -- all they know is, bad stuff is about to go down.

Unfortunately, you can't verbally convince your cat that all is well, but you can do your best to make the experience less traumatic for them (and for your bare hands). Ease your reluctant kitty into their travel carrier with these top tips.

Guide them in backwards

Most cat owners will try and place their cat in a carry case head first and there are two big problems with this -- 1. Kitty sees it coming, thus front legs spring into action to make your task harder than swimming through treacle and 2. Going in head first forces your cat into a dark, claustrophobic space which kicks all manner of anxieties into gear (anxieties that you'll be cleaning up afterwards).

Instead, place the carrier on its end so the opening faces the ceiling and try gently guiding your cat in tail first. As you are doing so, speak gently to them -- being able to see your face will help put your cat at ease and make them feel more trusting towards you, assuming that you don't launch into a sweary tirade whilst doing so!

Make them feel at home

Okay, making your nervy cat feel at home in a boxy cage sounds like a tall order, but it can be done with the right items. First and foremost, ensure the cage floor is comfy. A cold and scratchy paper-lined cage is less than inviting, so create a cosy carrier with a warm towel fresh out of the dryer.  In the event of your cat urinating or vomiting, the towel will absorb any unpleasant liquids to prevent their legs and tail from getting wet and causing your kitty more upset.

With the cage floor covered, add some familiar elements like their favourite toy or blanket with their scent on and maybe a clothing item of yours. Place these in the carrier hours before you're due to leave and this way, the cage will already smell like familiar territory to them. You can make things more relaxing for your cat by using a pheromone-mimicking spray to de-stress them. Sprays can imitate the friendly pheromones cats transfer to surfaces to claim 'ownership' -- a spritz of this on their blanket can stop them from territorial spraying and displaying other stress-related behaviours.

Quick tips!

  • If you still have trouble getting your sly kitty in the carrier, try using a laser to lure them inside. Cats get pretty hypnotized by dots of light flashing across walls and floors so if you have a laser key ring or pen handy, this may do the trick.
  • Be confident. Your cat will sense your nervous, edgy nature after several failed attempts, so just approach them calmly and happily as if you're picking them up to play.
  • Once they're inside, place a treat though the bars.
  • Pay them close attention -- it's helpful for cats to hear familiar voices during the car journey while in the carrier. If you have kids or other passengers in the back seat, encourage them to speak frequently to your cat and to stroke them if they rub their cheeks against the bars.
  • When the carrier is not in use, place it somewhere accessible with the door propped open. Put a scent-marked throw and a toy inside -- if you keep it out in the open long enough, your cat will start exploring and will soon view it as just another bed or personal hideaway in the home.

For more tips, contact a local cattery, such as Welcome Boarding Kennels & Cattery.