Cat in front of red barnMany cat owners have difficulties getting their cats into the carrier! Here are some helpful tips to make transporting your kitty a little easier.

Get Your Cat Used To the Carrier 

  • Leave the carrier out in the open several days before your visit.
  • Spray the inside of the carrier with Feliway, sprinkle catnip in the carrier, and/or leave tasty treats in the carrier. This will entice your cat to explore the carrier and will help associate the carrier with good things.
  • Leave a soft blanket, towel or cushion in the carrier.
  • It is important not to scare your pet with loud noises or quick movements while it is near the carrier.
  • Tie the carrier door open or take the door off completely to avoid the possibility of your cat being scared by the door swinging shut.
  • Consider leaving the carrier out all the time as a place for your kitty to sleep.

On the Day of Your Cat's Vet Visit

  • Pretend nothing is different about today.
  • Try to go about your routine as normal (though, if your cat goes outside, it is better to leave them inside).
  • If you feel like your feline is catching on, ignore the carrier, pet your cat, offer treats or catnip. The idea is to build your cat's trust. If your cat senses your urgency, your pet will not cooperate.
  • If you see your cat resting in the carrier, even if it is an hour or so before your appointment, slowly approach the carrier, give your cat a few pets/treats and then shut the door quickly, but gently.
  • If you are approaching the time to leave for your appointment and your cat has not gone into the carrier on its own, try enticing your kitty to go in with a special treat or toy.
  • Shutting your cat in a small room with few hiding spaces the day of the exam can also help if you are still having difficulties. NEVER let your cat outside the day of an exam.
  • Once your kitty is in the carrier, resist any temptation to open the carrier door again until you are safely in the exam room, or you may find yourself with a loose kitty and you must start all over (and it WILL be harder the second time, because cats are very smart!).

What If That Didn't Work?

  • For difficult kitties, or for appointments which are urgent, you may have to be a little more creative.
  • Staying calm is key to successfully getting your cat into the carrier. If you feel frustrated, anxious or flustered, your cat is going to pick up on this and fight harder because it will be scared.
  • Take deep breaths, and learn to step back and try a new approach if the current one is not working.
  • If you can't coax your kitty into the carrier on its own, the next step to try is picking up your kitty.
    • If your cat is generally calm, pick it up the way you would normally.
    • More difficult or nervous kitties may need to be lifted by the scruff of the neck (the loose skin behind the head) and the back legs.
    • Another trick is to pick up your kitty, wrap your pet in a towel or pillow case, then lower your cat into the carrier inside the towel or pillow case.
    • For feral or very scared cats, we also recommend wearing a thick coat, thick pants and, if you have them, a thick pair of gloves, while putting the cat in the carrier, to avoid being scratched. Please always stay safe!
  • Place them into the carrier from the top door (if your carrier has one) or back them into the carrier tail first (this makes them feel less trapped). 
    • Tipping the carrier on its end can make it easier to drop your cat into it.
    • When tipping the carrier back into normal carrying position, do this slowly so your cat has time to adjust position.
  • Or take the carrier apart, place your cat inside, then put it back together If at any point you feel unsafe, STOP. It is not worth getting bitten or scratched. Take a deep breath. 

If you feel you can try again safely, do so, if not, call us and see if we can reschedule for later (usually either later that day or the next day). If your kitty is truly ill and needs medical attention immediately, see if you can find a friend or relative to help. It is better to have to go to a 24-hour clinic (if we cannot reschedule for a later time that day) than to be seriously injured during the process.

What About a Sedative?

Unfortunately, it is illegal (and very unsafe) for veterinarians to prescribe sedatives without first examining your cat. If your pet has had an exam within the last year and does not have any major medical conditions, consult with your veterinarian. Exams for sedatives must be recent (within 1 year) and usually require blood work to ensure there are no kidney or liver problems first. Sedatives may have dangerous, unexpected side effects so following your veterinarian's instructions is very important.

Video Resources

Cats & Carriers — Friends Not Foes (Training your cat to like the carrier)

How To Put a Cat in a Carrier Easily (using a pillowcase)