According to the United States Government, more than 50% of pet owners travel with their pets. Back in the days when I owned a cat, I took my cat literally everywhere with me--school, shopping, visits to friends' houses, even long car trips. The little bit of effort I put into making him comfortable riding in a pet carrier was more than repaid with the hours of fun and companionship that I received, as well as the astonishment of everyone we visited. People were amazed that cats could travel so well and easily on car trips (even trips of more than twenty hours!) and always wanted to know my secret, so now I am going to share my methods for teaching a cat to ride in a pet carrier with you through a series of several articles.
For safety (both yours and the cat's) never let a cat ride free in your car. Always give them the safety of a pet carrier.
Things You Will Need
Small nontippable dish
Towel or pillow
Step 1If your cat has not been trained to use a harness and leash, do this first.
Now that your cat has become accustomed to the harness and leash, it's time to introduce them to the carrier. Most people make a huge mistake because they use the carrier only to take their cat to the vet, so the cats quickly come to associate the carrier with unpleasantness. It's your job to make the cat's experiences with the carrier largely pleasant.
Set the carrier down in the middle of the floor, put a folded towel in the bottom, or your cat's favourite pillow, and a small cat toy inside the carrier. Now walk away and pretend to ignore the carrier. After a time, your cat will become curious and want to investigate. (If it doesn't work, pay attention to the carrier again, and then walk away. Repeat until the cat comes to check it out.)
When your cat goes inside the carrier, praise him or her in your normal fashion. If your cat responds to treats, give him or her a small treat to eat. Then walk away, and when your cat leaves the area, pick up the carrier and put it away. Repeat until the cat comes to associate the carrier with fun.
Once your cat is accustomed to their carrier, and goes in, close the carrier door and put it in your car. Some cats will do better on the floor of the front seat--others will do better belted into the back seat. I use the slots in the cat's carrier to fasten it down with the seat belt. Sit in the car for a few minutes with your cat, praising him or her and then pick up the pet carrier and take it back inside, praise your cat and let him out and play with him.
When your pet responds well to getting in the car, put their carrier in the car and start the engine. Some cats will freak out--simply talk to kitty in a reassuring voice. Turn the car off and let the cat calm down if necessary. If the cat responds well, drive a short distance down the driveway and back.
Gradually increase the length of the car trip--around the block, then perhaps to the park.
Once your pet goes into the carrier and rides in the car, it's time to take them someplace fun for them. Make sure they are wearing the harness when they go inside their carrier, and clip the leash to the harness before they get out of their carrier for your pet's safety! A trip to the park gives them a chance to experience a new and different environment. Sometimes going to the house of a person they know can also be fun for them (try it first with someone who doesn't have pets). As you take kitty to more and more places, he or she will begin to love travelling with you and may want to accompany you everywhere--so you should be prepared!
There's nothing like the joy of having a cat companion you can travel with. By teaching them to ride in a pet carrier, you will be able to take kitty everywhere with you without stress and amaze your friends as your pet will learn to love travelling with you.
Tips & Warnings
- Make sure your kitty has time to become comfortable with each step before you move on to the next one. You must be a patient teacher.
- There's no right or wrong amount of time that each step will take. Some cats will take to this easily, others will require many repetitions.
- Never take kitty anywhere without a harness and leash, for her or his safety.
- Never let your cat ride free in the car. Cats hate it and may end up endangering you and themselves and causing an accident.
- Although soft-sided pet carriers are popular, your pet will be safer in a hard-sided carrier. If you've ever seen the places some felines choose to sleep, you'll know that a folded towel or cloth in the bottom of their carrier is all they need for comfort and warmth.