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Getting Kitty into the Carrier
Written by: Elisa Jordan, freelance writer and editor, lives in Long Beach, Calif., with her two cats, Spencer and Roscoe.
"Most cats only see their carriers when a trip to the veterinarian is eminent. Like any animal, cats develop associations, so it doesn't take long for them to associate their crates with a scary place that smells funny and where they get poked with needles."
Every cat owner has experienced it - the war that starts when it's time to put your feline friend in a travel carrier. The sweet, purring ball of fluff you cuddled last night while watching TV suddenly turns into 10 pounds of fury. Kitty might straighten and stiffen his legs in an effort to make his bodies too big to fit into the crate. Your best friend may even use his claws in an effort to get away, or urinate due to the stress of the situation. Often, cats' negative reactions cause owners to feel guilty, so Kitty ends up getting a reprieve from going to the veterinarian. To lessen the fears - and your guilt - it's important to acclimate your cat to a sturdy, well-made carrier.
Developing Positive Associations
For your cat to feel comfortable with the idea of a crate, you have to help him develop positive associations with it. If a cat runs for the hills when he sees his carrier, consider purchasing a new one that's a different color or shape. If the cat associates fear with the first one, he might never change his mind.
Most cats only see their carriers when a trip to the veterinarian is eminent. Like any animal, cats develop associations, so it doesn't take long for them to associate their crates with a scary place that smells funny and where they get poked with needles. Instead, you can get your cat to think of his carrier as a safe, low-stress place. To begin this process, leave the new carrier out where the cat can see it, perhaps near his litter box or feeding area. If a cat only sees his carrier when it's veterinarian time, he'll definitely find a hiding spot when he sees it.
A Carrier and a Haven
Make the carrier a place where the cat can relax. Leave the carrier door open and place a comfortable, cushy bed in it. Some plastic carriers have a top that unlatches from the bottom - if you have one like that, take the top off so the cat can use it as a bed. After a while, when the cat seems comfortable with the "bed", you can put the top back on.
Whenever possible, leave the crate in an area that's fun for the cat, such as in front of a window, in the family room, or wherever he likes to sleep.
Once the cat seems comfortable with the crate's presence, feed him in it. Not all cats will take to this right away, so if that's the case, leave treats or food near the carrier. Start at a distance that's comfortable for the cat, even if that means placing the food 20 feet away. Gradually, move the goodies closer to the crate until finally placing them inside.
Put treats in the carrier regularly. The goal is for Kitty to develop a positive association with his crate, to think of it as a place where he can safely eat and sleep.
As time goes on, close the carrier door while he's inside and feed him a treat. Get him used to the idea that sometimes the door will close. The positive association you've helped him form will make the next trip to the veterinarian easier for both of you.