A Guide to Getting Your Cat in a Pet Carrier

Cats can be crafty and elusive and independent– those are some of the traits we love about them. But the very parts of their personalities that draw us to them can spell trouble when it comes to keeping them healthy.

Chronic conditions are on the rise and pets, especially cats, are known for hiding illness. That means pet owners may not immediately see physical signs that something is wrong. Regular preventive care and comprehensive exams are the best tools for early disease detection and treatment. But as many cat owners know, getting your cat in a carrier and to the vet can be a challenge.

The following guidelines are aimed at making a trip to the vet a more positive experience for you and your cat.

Choose Wisely

It’s important to get a carrier that is designed specifically for transporting pets. Using a makeshift carrier like a laundry basket or pillow case is not safe and may injure or traumatize your cat. Acceptable carriers come in hard plastic or soft-sided versions, or a system like the Hide Perch & Go, which is designed to reduce stress.

Here are some considerations when choosing a carrier:

  • Hard-sided carriers are best for just starting out. Get one that opens from both the top and the front.
  • Soft-sided carriers are lighter-weight, smaller and easier to handle. These open from both the top and the side.
  • Regardless of which carrier you choose, make sure you get one that can be easily taken apart. This is imperative for cats that won’t come out on their own, or for cats that are sick or in pain.

Hello Cat, It’s Me, Carrier

Cats don’t like to be exposed to uncomfortable or new environments. Can you blame them? Introduce your cat to the carrier before you need to use it for transport. Make it a familiar, secure and pleasant place so your cat feels comfortable and safe being in and around the carrier.

Here are some tips for familiarizing your cat with the carrier:

  • Set the carrier in a favorite place for your cat (in the sun, or on a favorite sofa).
  • Put a favorite blanket or soft, absorbent towel in the bottom.
  • Place a few kibbles of your cat’s food or a favorite treat in the carrier.
  • Use a pheromone spray or wipe (such as Feliway) to help calm your cat.
  • Leave the door open and let your cat get comfortable going in and out.
  • When your cat intentionally chooses the carrier as a preferred hiding place, you can close the door for small periods of time – just a few seconds at first.
  • Make the carrier a comfortable resting, feeding or play location. Keep the transport carrier out and accessible in the home, not just when you’re taking your cat somewhere.

Easy Does It

If your cat has not been acclimated to the carrier and he or she will not willingly go in, use the following procedure to safely place your cat into the carrier:

  • Place the carrier on its end so the open door is facing the ceiling.
  • Put a towel in the bottom so if your cat urinates, the towel will absorb the wetness and keep it off of your cat as much as possible.
  • Pick your cat up under his front legs, with your other hand supporting his bottom.
  • Lower your cat rear-end first into carrier¬-- this way they will not feel like they’re being forced into a situation where there is no way out.
  • Close the door and secure the latch, then gently return the carrier to the correct position.
  • Cover the carrier with a light towel or blanket.

Learn More

Taking the stress out of transporting your cat can help you partner with your veterinarian to give your cat the care he or she needs to live a long and healthy life. For more information on cat health and preventive care topics, visit our pet health library.