A: I get asked this question frequently, particularly during the summer and holiday traveling seasons. One of my clients frequently travels and likes to bring Hilda, her adorable tuxedo cat, with her. Hilda has three separate carrier choices depending on the trip. She has a Sherpa bag to take her to the cat vet, a top-loading plastic cat carrier for car travel and a special airline cat carrier for flying the friendly skies. Needless to say Hilda is a well-traveled cat.
Hilda’s example aside, there is no guaranteed way to make your wonderful cat believe the carrier is her friend, particularly if it only takes her to the vet’s office — but I have learned a few tricks in my years as a cat sitter I am happy to share.
Cats do not like confined spaces, so choose a cat carrier that is large enough for your cat to stand up in and turn around in. I think a carrier with the door on the top makes for the least amount of stress in getting your cat inside and out. Putting comfortable bedding inside and a few favorite toys will make it more tolerable. Please make sure your cat carrier has good ventilation and a secure latch!
If you have the room in your home to make the cat carrier a normal part of the environment, this might help with “carrier fear.” I cured one of my cats of it by placing her carrier in a quiet, tucked away spot with the door open. I had bedding inside with toys and some fresh catnip. One day later I found her happily snoozing inside. This procedure can also be a good plan a few days prior to actually needing the cat carrier for travel. Also, don’t make a big production of placing her inside. Cats are very attuned to your mood, so remain calm and casual.
You might try taking your cat on a short trip that doesn’t end up at the cat vet. When you return home give her plenty of praise and treats — and remember patience is key. As always, I welcome your comments and stories.