Cat Carrier Training Guide

Intelligence is defined as the ability to learn from an experience, retain that knowledge, and use it to solve problems in a new environment. Like humans, cats learn by observation and doing. Examples include opening doors, ringing bells and turning on light switches. This is procedural memory, and cats excel at it. In fact, cats associate the memory of an event or place with the emotions they experienced in the surroundings or locations. They will remember experiencing traumatic stress, pain or fear involving their carrier and the vet’s office. Fortunately, they remember positive experiences as well, especially when food or play is involved. So how do you overcome your cat’s negative association with their cat carrier?

Keep calm, and carry on

For many felines, the presence of a carrier signals that it’s time to panic and freak out rather than keep calm and carry on. The struggle results in missed veterinary visits, scratches, and emotional turmoil for the cat and their human. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of the carrier acting as the starting bell at a boxing match, instigating an adrenaline-fueled fight, it can be conditioned as a place of comfort and calm enjoyment where the cat willingly wants to hang out.

  1. Familiarize your cat with the carrier well before they need to be transported in it. Keep it out at all times so it doesn’t become a trigger associated with the vet, but instead a normal part of their home. 
  2. Add treats, toys, or items of comfort to encourage your cat to enter on their own free will. Bonus points if they like to nap or hideout in it.
  3. Utilize calming pheromone therapy to create a secure environment. #feliway 
  4. Allow them to explore the carrier at their own pace. 
  5. Practice and Patience! You won’t cure their fears overnight.

If at any point your cat growls or hisses stop immediately and consult with your Fear Free team about how you can hone your technique.

Prep for the vet

Getting your kitty to the vet for a wellness check can feel like a fool’s errand, but the truth is that preventative care is much easier, more affordable, and less invasive than reactive care. Cat carrier training can make this daunting task a walk in the park for you both.

  • Once at the vet, we recommend not placing the carrier on the floor. Cats feel most secure up high. While in the lobby, you may place the carrier on a chair or the countertop.
  • When in the exam room, we recommend placing the carrier on the exam table. 
  • If your cat is shy, fearful/nervous, or social, you may open the door to the carrier so they may exit and explore the exam room as they feel comfortable. 
  • Please do not remove them from the carrier as this may cause additional stress. 
  • If your cat happens to be a little more on the spicy side of life at the vet, please keep the carrier closed. The veterinary team will assess your pets’ FAS (Fear, anxiety, stress) levels and formulate a plan to safely examine them. 


Preparing your cat for an annual exam

Preparing your cat for a blood draw

Teach your cat to enjoy their carrier