Step-by-Step Guide to Habituating Your Cat to a Carrier
- Begin by leaving your carrier open and available to the cat in the home at all times.
- Feed your cat near the carrier. If your cat's so afraid of the carrier she won't eat there, move the food bowl as far away as necessary to get her to eat You can even make this easier by adding some special tasty treat to the food bowl, such as a bite of canned tuna or chicken; whatever your cat finds really special.
- Once your cat regularly eats from the bowl, begin moving the bowl a few inches closer to the carrier every few days until she will eat next to the carrier.
- After the cat has eaten next to the carrier for several days, place the food bowl directly inside the carrier entrance so she only has to place her head inside the carrier to eat.
- During this time, never close the door on the carrier. Wire or prop it open if necessary to be sure that it doesn't accidentally fall closed on the cat and startle her. You should also place different toys and an occasional treat into the carrier and allow the cat tho find them there. Stuffed mice, catnip toys, feather toys, or a small pot of cat grass are all good choices that lure your cat into the carrier to relax inside for a few moments. Spraying a synthetic feline facial pheromone in the carrier periodically may also help. You should never however, lure your cat into the carrier and then close the door for a trip to the veterinarian. This will only lead your cat to fear the carrier and distrust you more.
- After several days of eating food with just her head inside the carrier, move the food bowl further into the carrier. Move the bowl a few inches into the carrier every day until the cat will go inside the carrier completely to eat.
- After several weeks- or maybe even months, depend on the cat- you should find the cat occasionally resting in the carrier and treating it as any other favorite sleeping area. Once the cat is this comfortable with the carrier, you can begin closing the door for a few seconds at a time with your cat inside. Your schedule for closing the door might be 10 seconds today, 15 seconds tomorrow, 20 seconds the day after that, and so on. At this point, you may want to move the carrier into a family room where you can practice these sessions while you're watching television or doing some other activity where you can keep a close eye on the cat. If the cat ever acts distressed about being in the carrier with the door closed, release her immediately. An next time you close the door, only leave it closed as long as the cat had tolerated it on the previous session.
- Once your cat used the carrier regularly as a resting place, you can proceed to habituating the cat to car rides.