Traveling with your cat doesn’t have to be a crazy, stressful experience. It can, and should, be a stress-free even for both of you! You can take trips together, and you go to the vet when needed, without having to catnap your cat.
Below are some tips and techniques that I have had success with over the years, with wild and domestic felines. I hope these tips can help you and your feline family members, too! Please note: this is an abbreviated list. If you would like more detailed help, feel free to contact me.
Your Goal: Turn the Cat Carrier into a Safe Place.
- Leave the kennel out weeks prior to transporting your cat to the vet (or any car ride).
- Better yet, leave the cat kennel out all the time; it looses its “fear factor”. Your cat will start to see it as neutral as the rest of the furniture.
- Put your cat’s favorite treats, food, catnip, and toys in the crate to help your cat associate the “scary kidnap machine” as a yummy, fun, safe place!
- Play games around the cat carrier.
- Place familiar scents (ones that you know your cat feels safe with) in the kennel. This can be a blanket, your sweater, their bedding, etc.
- If the sound of the metal carrier door is a fear trigger for your cat, remove the door. You can put it back on after he/she is using as a kitty condo.
Your Goal: Reward Your Cat for Being Near the Carrier
- Reward your cat when s/he looks at the cat carrier. Toss treats in her direction when she glances at it!
- Have a Treat Party and praise her calmly when she walks near it.
- Offer huge rewards if she peeks her head into the carrier.
- It’s ok if your cat walks away. You are building up her confidence of just being near the carrier.
Your Goal: Build Up to *Asking* Your Cat to Go Into the Carrier
- Reward your cat for walking in, then close the door for a few seconds. Open the door, toss treats, then walk away. This teaches your cat that you’re not going to slam the door on him and CatNap him/her.
- Gradually work up to keeping the door closed for longer periods. Always reward your cat.
- Your cat will learn that the door closing will open again soon. This helps cats to feel safe, and not trapped.
Your Goal: Quick Trips
- Once your cat is feeling safe at this point, and walking in and out of the carrier, you can carry her around the house, then let her out.
- Remember to reward and praise!
- Slowly build up to walking outside to the car with your cat in the carrier. Keep it short and sweet. Continue using lots of treats and praise.
- At this stage, you don’t need to even turn on the car, just place the carrier inside the car, offer your cat treats, and see if she’s calm enough to eat.
- After your cat is feeling comfortable and safe with this stage, you can turn on the car, offer treats, and then turn off the car and end the session.
- Eventually you can work up to driving down the street, then coming right back home.
- All of this will involve lots of treats, praise, and patience.
Your Goal: Go Slow. Be Patient. Allow Choices.
- Cats respond well to slow and steady progress.
- Cats respond positively to being given choices.
- Choices create security, safety, and improve their well-being
- Forcing cats to do anything only creates fear.
- Fear creates distrust, anxiety, and even health problems.
- Forcing your cat to do anything they are uncomfortable with breaks down your bond and erodes their trust.
- Your cat is very sensitive to your energy. Be mindful of this!
Remember: Always ASK, REWARD, ENCOURAGE, and BE PATIENT!
You and your cat will make tremendous progress together, and create life long bonds if you can remember these 4 things.
Kitty Tip: Easy-Traveler has also helped to transform car rides for our cats! I highly recommend it!
Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them. – Jim Davis
How have you transformed your cat-nappings to safe travels? Please share your tips with us!