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How to get your cat into a carrier

Updated on January 23, 2014
Who me?  Photograph by Helen Lush
Who me? Photograph by Helen Lush

Tried and tested methods of persuading your pet cat into a carrier for a visit to the vets

In my experience, a kitten's first visit to the vet's is often a jolly outing for your pet, involving interesting new sights and smells and a lot of being fussed over. However the novelty seems to wear off with repeat visits for annual jabs, the “dreaded operation” etc. and, cats being cats, they take great delight in thwarting their owners efforts to persuade them into the temporary prison of a cat basket or carrier. You will need subtlety and guile and a cunning plan.

Detailed below are four methods which have proved successful with our cats over the years. We have the sort of carrier that is made of plastic and has a gate at one end, but there are many models available including top loaders and ones that come apart completely. The latter can be very helpful if your cat is poorly or elderly, as the base can be used as a permanent bed then the top clipped over the whole caboodle as necessary. Cardboard carriers can be unreliable as they are not waterproof (need I explain?) and not always strong enough to hold a cat that is determined to escape.

"Not so cool now..." Photograph by Helen Lush
"Not so cool now..." Photograph by Helen Lush

Some basics

Like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, you will find a towel essential.

First of all – be calm and methodical. Choose a “centre of operations” - preferably with relaxed feline already in situ - block off all escape routes and hidey holes, shut all flaps and take a deep breath. It is often a good idea to introduce the pet carrier well in advance – it may even become a den or nest if you equip it with a snuggly blanket or favourite toys. Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time before your vet appointment.

"I'm an ornament" Photograph by Helen Lush
"I'm an ornament" Photograph by Helen Lush
"The great escape" Photograph by Helen Lush
"The great escape" Photograph by Helen Lush


First of all, place the carrier with the gate open, on the floor, comfy towel inserted, and wait for your cat's naturally curious nature to do the rest. Okay, we never thought it was going to be that easy did we?.... get on the floor with your pet's favourite toys (the catnip “fishmouse” in our cat's case) and get her/his interest excited with a bit of toy action, then nonchalently throw the toy into the carrier. Alternatively, inserting a feather into the basket from the rear (if your carrier's construction allows) and wiggling this around can be impossible to resist. Repeat as necessary. When (lets be positive) they follow the toy into the basket, smoothly and quickly fasten the gate behind them and reward your pet immediately once they are inside with a treat so that they associate being in there with a tasty morsel.



Same sort of thing but introduce a morsel of your cat's favourite food – chicken usually does the trick for ours – into the carrier. Although this method is of course more effective with a fairly hungry cat don't starve your cat unless they are fasting before an operation!

"The pink ribbon snake" Photograph by Helen Lush
"The pink ribbon snake" Photograph by Helen Lush
Morph in the fruit bowl.  Photograph by Helen Lush
Morph in the fruit bowl. Photograph by Helen Lush


Enlist help – two pairs of gentle and familiar hands make it all so much easier – don't pull strangers in from the street! Exude confidence – cats can detect any tentativeness and will use it to their advantage. Keep your voice calm and low – move slowly and surely – tell them about the delicious feast they will be rewarded with if they behave nicely! Leave a gap between attempts to avoid unecessary stress to both cat and yourself.

"Relaxing..." Photograph by Helen Lush
"Relaxing..." Photograph by Helen Lush


The towel method. If all else fails, wrap your moggy in a towel, carefully and skillfully enfolding all limbs, like a swaddled baby, and thread head first into the basket. The towel should loosen once safely inside. This prevents your cat forming the “starfish” position which tends to make insertion impossible! This all needs to be performed swiftly and surely before your kitty even knows what is going on. Hopefully this has resulted in your pet being installed in a carrier and ready for their trip to the vets. Reward your cat and breathe a sigh of relief.

Photograph by Helen Lush
Photograph by Helen Lush
Where did that fish-mouse go? Photograph by Helen Lush
Where did that fish-mouse go? Photograph by Helen Lush

The journey

Have I stressed the importance of the towel? Well this is where a second towel becomes very useful. Covering the carrier with said towel can be calming for your pet when transporting him/her in a car. It will muffle sounds of traffic and block disturbing sights such as the world whizzing past the car window and other (possibly alarming) animals on arrival at the vets. It will also keep them warm and draught-free. Towels or blankets provide familiar scents too if they have been used for bedding.

There are synthetic facial feline sprays available to spray on bedding or towel, hopefully making it irresistible. If your pet is very stressed when being transported your vet can advise on medication for them which should help. Above all keep calm, be patient and never force your cat - they need you to know it was all their idea in the first place...and it usually is....


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    • DaffodilSky profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Lush 

      5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

      Hi glassvisage - sorry but I somehow missed your comment at the time! Good point about avoiding head-bonking - we don't want to add any more unpleasantness to a visit to the vets :)

    • glassvisage profile image


      5 years ago from Northern California

      I like the fabric carriers that are softer - then I don't have to worry about bonking their head on the plastic ones when I try to get them in!

    • DaffodilSky profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Lush 

      5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

      Thanks Mike - I've never been able to resist taking lots of photos of our cats!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      5 years ago from London

      The pictures are great, indeed and your tips very useful!

    • DaffodilSky profile imageAUTHOR

      Helen Lush 

      5 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

      You are very welcome! Good luck with Lindemann :)

    • nArchuleta profile image

      Nadia Archuleta 

      5 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Absolutely adorable pics! I'm interested to try covering the carrier when I take Lindemann down to visit his grandma (my mom) next week. He hates traveling -- it makes him car sick. Thanks for sharing!


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