If you’ve struggled to get a kitten into a carrier, you’re not alone. It’s difficult to experience how scared and uncooperative a kitten can be, which makes the process stressful for everyone involved; but, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are tips to help foster or adopted kittens like, or at least tolerate, their carriers instead of fear them. Note: If your kitten panics at any point during these steps, go back to the previous step and proceed more slowly.
Step 1: In the beginning…
- Use a carrier with a top and bottom that can be separated. Place something soft and washable, such as a towel, on the bottom.
- Spray a calming pheromone on the towel at least 1/2 hour before the kitten has access to it in order for the alcohol to evaporate. Never spray the pheromone on the kitten.
- Place the bottom of the carrier in your foster space or the room where you initially keep your new kitten. Let it live in that space with your kitten.
- Put treats and a safe toy on the towel, feed moist meals on the towel, and play with a wand toy in and around the bottom of the carrier.
Step 2: Once your kitten is comfortable in the bottom of the carrier…
- Attach the top of the carrier.
- Continue to put treats and toys, as well as feed moist meals, in the carrier. Also put treats on the top.
- Continue to play with the wand toy, enticing the kitten onto the carrier top.
Step 3: Once your kitten is comfortable going into the almost-assembled carrier…
- Attach the carrier door, but be sure to secure it in an open position.
- Continue to put treats, toys and moist meals in and on top of the carrier and play around the carrier with the wand toy.
Step 4: The door…
- Briefly close the door while the kitten is distracted with an extra-special treat.
- Gradually increase the time that your kitten is in the carrier with the door closed.
Step 5: Moving on up…
- Briefly lift the carrier off the floor while the kitten is distracted with a toy or meal.
- If she’s doing well, lift the carrier a little higher each time.
Step 6: Up, up and away…
- Walk a short distance, then return to the room and open the door so the kitten can leave the carrier.
- Walk a little further each time, and always return to her safe room.
Step 7: Almost there and beyond…
- Carry the cat in the carrier to your car and put her on the floor in the back seat. Be sure you’ve sprayed the car with a calming pheromone at least 1/2 hour before.
- Additional steps include turning on the motor, at which time you may play a cat-calming CD. Once you’ve driven around the block a few times, try driving several blocks. Always return to the the kitten’s safe space.
It’s really important that your kitten at least tolerate the cat carrier. It makes for less stressful trips to the veterinarian, which will occur at least yearly once she’s an adult. You can increase the kitten’s positive association with the veterinary visit by providing treats once there and taking her favorite toy.
So that your kitten/cat-to-be doesn’t only associate car rides with trips to the veterinarian, take her for a ride every few months. In addition to transporting your feline to the veterinarian, easily getting her into a carrier can be lifesaving in an event such as an emergency evacuation.