Many cats have only bad associations with that horrible plastic and metal torture device humans call a cat carrier. “You capture me, put me in a noisy moving terrifying car, then we end up at the vet! And you want me to go back in there?” Trying to get an unwilling cat into a cat carrier sometimes feels like you need to be a reverse houdini, or perhaps wear full body armor. While owned cats, if they’re lucky, may only have to get into a carrier once a year for their annual vet checkup, fostered cats very often have to endure the carrier and car trip torture once a week! Of course, it’s worth it for them to find a home. But amazingly even once-a-year cats can have a surprisingly good memory when the cat carrier comes out of storage – hey, where did the cat go? Telling him it’s for his own good won’t likely convince him (see illustrative photo above, of our foster cat George). So what can you do to get a carrier-phobic cat safely and as happily as possible into a cat carrier? Below is our technique after getting dozens of kittens and cats into carriers. These are not reconditioning or training tips, like leaving the carrier out, feeding your cat in the carrier, etc, which though effective, take time. These are how to get a cat into a carrier quickly, reducing the anxiety and potential injury for both humans and felines.
Our “burrito cat-into-carrier” technique is meant for friendly, uninjured cats.
- Ideally 24+ hours before you need to get the cat into the carrier, casually put the carrier in your bathroom. Do this while your cat is distracted by something, say eating, or someone playing with him, or when he’s sleeping.
- Position the carrier so the door is open & facing the ceiling. So for hard plastic carriers or crates, that would be standing on its end. This will let you take advantage of gravity and with plastic carriers, their slippery plastic sides.
- Locate a lightweight bath towel that is big enough to wrap around your cat and contain all his legs/paws/claws, but not so big that wrapped around you cat you can’t get him through the carrier door. Put it in the bathroom too.
- Get the cat into the bathroom with you and the carrier. Depending on your cat, you may be able to pick him up and carry him in, or lure him in with food or a toy. Quickly close the door.
- Gently but confidently (as possible!), wrap the cat in it like a burrito in the towel with only their head sticking out. You may not get this right the first time! You need to wrap and hold the towel securely enough so the cat doesn’t escape, but obviously not so tight that you are hurting them or inhibiting their breathing.
- Putting the tail end in first (so the cat doesn’t see he’s being put into the carrier), lower the burrito cat into the carrier, and swiftly shut the door. Do NOT worry about unwrapping the towel, they will unwrap themselves.