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One of the most challenging parts of your kitty’s vet visit can actually be getting them there in the first place. In fact, veterinarians often see canceled appointments because the guardian in question couldn’t convince their feline friend to get in the cat carrier for transport! Taking the time to teach your cat that the carrier is a safe and comfortable spot can save you both a lot of stress and struggle.

|| Making the Carrier Comfortable ||

Cats love a nice cozy place to curl up, so it’s important to choose a carrier that can become just such a space. Placing a favourite blanket or cushion inside, that your cat is already used to, will help make the new carrier a little less alarming. Consider using a calming spray (like Feliway) that mimics the natural pheromones that cats use to mark their environment when they feel safe and secure. This spray can be applied to the carrier and whatever bedding you choose.

|| Introducing Your Cat to Their Carrier||

It’s important that your cat gets used to seeing and spending time in their carrier in the comfort of home – if it is hidden away in a closet and only appears before stressful car trips, it’s less likely that your cat will feel at ease hopping inside. Allow your cat the opportunity to explore the carrier in their own time. You might toss a few favourite treats inside to entice them to enter, but never try to push or force them inside. Try to find a spot in the house (perhaps on a shelf or secured to a perch) where the carrier can stay, with the door removed, as a place where your cat might choose to spend time.

|| Gradual Acclimatization to Transport||

Once your cat is comfortable entering and exiting the carrier, you can start closing the door with them inside. At first, simply close the door, pause for a moment, and open it again, leaving them be. Over time, you can leave the door closed for a few minutes (perhaps offering a treat or two through the door) before opening it again. The next step is to get them used to moving in the carrier – once they’re in and the door is shut, lift the carrier and take it to another room. Give them a treat, take it back to the first room, and open the door. Slow and steady is always best, so if your cat seems uncomfortable at any point, back up a step to make sure you’re setting the stage for happy carrier associations.

|| Safe and Smooth Transport Technique ||

When carrying the crate with your cat inside, pay careful attention to what that experience will feel like. Rather than using the handle, hold the crate against your chest with your arms cradling the sides or underneath the carrier, like you would carry a heavy box. The carrier should never swing while you walk – imagine how motion-sick you would feel if you were stuck inside a swinging box! When placing the carrier in the car, make sure that it will stay securely in place with no risk of sliding or tipping if the car takes a turn or brakes suddenly.

|| Keeping the Carrier a Positive Space ||

One of the most important things to remember is not to let your hard work go to waste! Once your cat is used to their carrier and comfortable being transported, make sure that short, positive trips in the carrier far outnumber trips to potentially stressful places like the vet. Taking the time to go for short ‘joy rides’ in the carrier around your house or a quick car ride down the street, with lots of treats or playtime at the end, can help reassure your cat that most carrier-based experiences are good ones.